Tragedy of the An­thro­pocene

The Guardian Weekly - - Reply -

It may be serendip­ity or maybe ed­i­to­rial nous, but those look­ing for ev­i­dence to sup­port the the­ory of the An­thro­pocene (14 July) only needed to flip a few pages to read of a per­ma­nent drought in Spain, and a tsunami of plas­tic bot­tles. As Ti­mothy Mor­ton ar­gues in his inim­itable style, the eco­log­i­cal cri­sis is as real as the ris­ing of the sun. The tragedy is that it has clearly still not en­tered the po­lit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion.

Thus else­where, in Com­ment & De­bate, Hans Kund­nani at­tempts to per­suade us that the real prob­lem fac­ing Europe is its fail­ure to in­crease its de­fence spend­ing, and we read of Don­ald Trump’s peev­ish and pa­thetic pos­tur­ing at the G20 when faced with the cli­mate agree­ment.

What­ever you may think of some of Mor­ton’s wack­ier ideas, his ba­sic premise is inar­guable: so long as the many symp­toms of hu­man im­pact are sim­pli­fied into man­age­able prob­lems, we are los­ing time. The para­dox is that, con­trary to the leftist cri­tique of Mor­ton’s think­ing, the ones who will suf­fer are the poor, the weak and the com­ing gen­er­a­tions. Faced with this in­evitabil­ity, politi­cians seem bank­rupt, bogged down in 19th­cen­tury ideas of progress. Neil Black­shaw Bar­bizon, France

• The de­cline of the US and the rise of the An­thro­pocene are ar­guably the two great in­ter­con­nected chal­lenges of this cen­tury and be­yond. One her­alds the un­cer­tainty of in­creas­ing eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal change. The other is the cer­tainty of cli­mate change. Don­ald Trump and Brexit are se­cond-or­der mat­ters.

One is a re­cur­ring hu­man phe­nom­e­non as em­pires, civil­i­sa­tions and more re­cently cap­i­tal­ist worldsys­tems rise, tri­umph and fall over cen­turies. The other is a new con­cept de­scrib­ing a new dy­namic en­com­pass­ing cat­a­strophic plan­e­tary change over mil­len­nia.

Both are con­nected, joined at the hip you might say, by the im­per­a­tive of end­less growth that is cen­tral to cap­i­tal­ism. It is eco­nomic growth that drives the rise of China and the oth­ers; it is eco­nomic growth that drives the An­thro­pocene.

The ques­tion, as crys­tallised by Kate Ra­worth of Dough­nut Eco­nom­ics fame, is whether we can cre­ate a fu­ture cap­i­tal­ism that re­places end­less growth with thriv­ing in bal­ance with both na­ture and hu­man needs. If not, then what? Ste­wart Sweeney Ade­laide, South Aus­tralia

• Your piece on philoso­pher Ti­mothy Mor­ton says how con­vinced he is, like most of us, “that ir­re­versible global warm­ing is un­der way”, and that our cur­rent An­thro­pocene age is proof of how “en­meshed we are with other be­ings”. Eclec­tic and whim­si­cal, Mor­ton has al­ready pub­lished, at 49, 12 books with two on the way, along with 14 es­says. He has also boasted, as men­tioned in your six-page fea­ture, that he has “racked up 350,000 air miles for the year”. Is this merely per­se­ver­ance, or, in terms of his car­bon foot­print, ev­i­dence, of overkill? Richard Or­lando West­mount, Que­bec, Canada

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.