Ac­cord­ing to the­o­ret­i­clal bi­ol­o­gist and sci­ence his­to­rian Man­fred Laubich­ler, our hu­man dom­i­na­tion could po­ten­tially cause a new mass ex­tinc­tion that would wipe out ev­ery or­gan­ism on Earth.

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS -

There is a very strong link in sev­eral of the de­bates between the An­thro­pocene and ques­tions of sus­tain­abil­ity, which is about val­ues, but it can be mis­lead­ing [out of a de­sire to] be provoca­tive. Take, for in­stance, the ex­tinc­tion de­bate. Yes, we can count and es­ti­mate how many species have been go­ing ex­tinct re­cently and are likely to go ex­tinct, but we can also fo­cus on how many species we have cre­ated and are go­ing to cre­ate. In ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing, we can cus­tom-de­sign new mi­crobes — and where’s the end to that? The peo­ple who are more con­nected to en­vi­ron­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity in the con­text of the An­thro­pocene would say this is a bad ques­tion. I think it’s an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion.

Can you talk about the role of cap­i­tal­ism in dis­cus­sions of the An­thro­pocene?

In­so­far as the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion goes hand in hand with a cer­tain cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, you could say that in some fun­da­men­tal way, cap­i­tal­ist logic be­longs to the his­tory of the An­thro­pocene. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t say that this is just the way it hap­pened, be­cause one could ar­gue other rel­e­vant causative agents. You could imag­ine that we could have reached our cur­rent pop­u­la­tion size in a non-cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem that would have cre­ated con­di­tions that mean we would now be talk­ing about the An­thro­pocene. The way it came about clearly has a cap­i­tal­ist bent to it, but I don’t think we could say that the An­thro­pocene re­quired cap­i­tal­ism.

In light of re­cent and seem­ingly cat­a­clysmic weather events, what are your thoughts on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to cli­mate change and con­ser­va­tion?

On the level of pub­lic per­cep­tion, the ef­fects of with­drawal from the Paris Cli­mate Ac­cord are dra­matic and bad, but if you look out­side of the United States, you might say that what Trump and his cronies are do­ing unites the rest of the world in a much stronger way than it did be­fore. In­dia, China, Europe, and many other economies have come to a sys­tem where they ig­nore what the U.S. thinks, and do what they think is im­por­tant on a global scale that might be much more pow­er­ful any­way. In that sense, it might have the op­po­site ef­fect of what Trump in­tended. It all de­pends on where you sit on this globe. It might be a good thing that the as­sumed Amer­i­can dom­i­nance comes to an end, and Trump’s poli­cies cer­tainly ac­cel­er­ate that.

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