Naming the Epoch: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Ecocene

The Anthropocene is the proposed name for the geological epoch where humanity is dramatically affecting geological processes. The name draws attention to severe environmental problems – but it also does other things. Jason Moore asks: “Does the Anthropocene argument obscure more than it illuminates?” (2014, 4). Donna Haraway argues that the Anthropocene must be “as short/thin as possible” (2015, 160). Moore, Haraway, S0lon and Latour claim the concept uncritically imports Western rationality, imperialism and anthropocentrism – and thereby narrows options for the development of sustainable alternatives.

It is important to be specific about exactly what ‘anthropos’ are doing to destabilise climate systems and other planetary boundaries. There is a particular model of development driving dramatic Earth System change. There are other options. In response to this problem, the Capitalocene is a concept that asserts: “the logic of capital drives disruption of Earth System. Not humans in general” (Salon, 2014).

Bruno Latour says the Capitalocene is “a swift way to ascribe this responsibility to whom and to where it belongs” (2014, 139). It is more specific. Consequently it opens space for other opinions. Yet while the Capitalocene is critical, is not creative. Beyond the assumptions of Anthropocene and the critical perspective of the Capitalocene, new ways of understanding social and ecological relations are emergent.

Design theorist Rachel Armstrong states “there is no advantage to us to bring the Anthropocene into the future… The mythos of the Anthropocene does not help us… we must re-imagine our world and enable the Ecocene” (2015). New ecologically informed ways of thinking and living must be generated. The Ecocene has yet to be designed. Its emergence depends on a new understanding of ecological-human relations and new types of development that emerge from this perspective. The transformative Ecocene describes a curative catalyst for cultural change necessary to survive the Anthropocene.

A presentation at Climate Change: Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics University of Brighton, Thursday 28-Friday 29 April 2016.

References
Armstrong, Rachel. (2015 June 18) Keynote presentation at Urban Ecologies. OCAD, Toronto, Canada.
Haraway, Donna (2015) ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin’. Environmental Humanities, Vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165.
Latour, Bruno. (2014 December) Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene – a personal view of what is to be studied. 113th AAA meeting in Washington on the 5th of November 2014 as a Distinguished Lecture. (draft for comments) Accessed online 27 February 2016: http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/139-AAA-Washington.pdf
Moore, Jason W. (2014) ‘The Capitalocene. Part I: On the Nature & Origins of Our Ecological Crisis’. Accessed online 27 February 2016: http://www.jasonwmoore.com/uploads/The_Capitalocene__Part_I__June_2014.pdf
Solon, Pablo. (2014, August 20) ‘We live CAPITALCENE. Not “anthropocene” because the logic of capital drives disruption of Earth System. Not humans in general. #ESU2014. Accessed online 27 February 2016: https://twitter.com/pablosolon/ status/502037442556596224

2 thoughts on “Naming the Epoch: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Ecocene

  1. Hi Joanna! Great piece. But Capitalocene as “not creative”? Hmmm…. Solon’s characterization (which you quote) is precisely what Haraway and I are arguing against: against capital-reductionism in the old “logic of capital” argument; and also against the idea that “nature” can be “disrupted.” My argument for the Capitalocene is for a way of thinking capitalism as a multi-species, world-ecological assemblage of capital, nature, and power — one in which each moment is thinkable in and through the others. I make the point not to be nitpicky, but rather to try to get at the heart of the real interpretive differences.All best, Jason

    • Thanks Jason for clarifying that distinction. I will take that on board and dive back into your book to be able to better characterise your work. I enjoy your description of the Capitalocene but I am also aware that not everyone likes political/ecological philosophy as much as I do. This is one of the reasons that I think a less loaded term might be a useful option.

      You must not think that I am saying that the Capitalocene (as you, Haraway and others describe it) is not creative. It IS certainly creative within the sphere of critical, political and philosophical theory. I am trying to do something else. This presentation is about what the arts (and design) can contribute to the epoch concept. With the ecocene, the concept has a more generative element – more apt for the creative disciplines. It is less about critique and more about the design of new ways of living.

      I am considering using the word for the subtitle the book I am writing: Design/Ecology/Politics: Towards the Ecocene. I am not sure if my publisher will let me, she has not liked my last two subtitles: ‘within and beyond capitalism’ and then ‘within and beyond error’.

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