Action on climate requires weighing historical scales correctly

Rhoda Feng in The Hedgehog Review:

Ever since the notion of the “Anthropocene” was proposed by two scientists, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen and marine scientist Eugene Stoermer, in a newsletter article published in 2000 by the International Council for Science, this label for the current geological epoch has led two distinct but related lives. Considered the successor to the Holocene Epoch, the Anthropocene is characterized by human harm to the earth system, including global warming and ocean acidification, the dissemination of synthetic chemicals, the redistribution of life forms across the planet, and a prospective sixth mass extinction event. In one life, the Anthropocene has been a lightning rod for questions of political economy and power. In its other, it has served as a useful scientific heuristic, assimilating mountains of measurements and calculations.

In The Climate of History in a Planetary Age, University of Chicago historian and theorist Dipesh Chakrabarty provides an expansive, but hardly exhaustive, overview of the Anthropocene, focusing on how historians, in particular, have grappled with the conditions of a world under physical duress. As humans have become a “geological force” in this new epoch and the earth has itself become an archive, with human behavior imprinted in the fossil record and ice caps, we are at the cusp of a new understanding of the agency of humankind and other terrestrial beings.

More here.