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The Anthropocene in the Longue Durée

April 22 to April 23, 2014 

In the past few decades there has been a growing awareness of global warming, rapidly decreasing biodiversity, massive soil erosion and acidification of ocean waters. This acute human impact on the planet extends to every aspect of what Western science thinks of as the geo-botanical “natural world.” This has led some scholars to suggest we are entering a new geological epoch that should be designated the ‘Anthropocene.’ Although the term itself may be considered contentious by some members of the scientific community, few can disagree that our species has had a profound and probably irreversible effect on the planet. However, there are still many questions that remain about the nature of this impact, its origins, and the future of the planet in an age when humansalter, dominate or manipulate almost every ecological system on earth. Archaeology can contribute a great deal to understanding these processes. One key question for comprehending the nature of human impact is the issue of where we place thestarting point for the Anthropocene. This is fundamental for delineating ‘tipping points’, from initial states of possibly ‘insignificant’ humanimpact on climate, landscapes and biodiversity, to ones of irreparable change. Inherent in this question are deeper issues such as how we behave as a species, perceptions of nature and culture in a pre- and post-colonial world, our propensity for altering environments to construct our own niches, and as a consequence, how these niches might change us in return. The archaeology of the Anthropocene can also help us consider the role Western perceptions of the opposition between “Nature” and “Culture”may have played in accelerating human impact in more recent history. These questions can only be answered by taking a long-term cross-cultural perspective on the Anthropocene.

With best wishes,
Arlene Rosen

 

Organizers:
Arlene Rosen
Monica Ramsey
Sofia Laparidou
Jinok Lee
Nedra Lee
Adriana Dingman