Mak­ing an An­thro­pocene

The Monthly (Australia) - - CONTENTS - by Michael Lucy

It’s a bright Septem­ber morn­ing in the early An­thro­pocene and we are in the back of a Maxi Taxi head­ing west to­wards the low­est point in Narrm, near where the Bir­rarung and the Maribyrnong flow to­gether in the shadow of the West­gate Bridge. Our des­ti­na­tion is Science­works in the Mel­bourne sub­urb of Spotswood; our goal for the day is to see what we can learn from the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion about the world we live in now, and (more con­cern­ing) turn it into a per­for­mance to be de­liv­ered at a “slam event” in the even­ing.

The field trip is oc­cur­ring un­der the aus­pices of the An­thro­pocene Cam­pus Mel­bourne, a four-day con­fer­ence of an­thro­pol­o­gists, sci­en­tists, artists and other schol­ars hosted by Deakin Univer­sity. As the name sug­gests, the event fo­cuses on the idea of the An­thro­pocene, the pro­posed new epoch in Earth’s his­tory in which peo­ple – through burn­ing fos­sil fu­els and ra­pa­ciously up­end­ing ecosys­tems, as well as through sheer weight of num­bers – have be­come a dom­i­nant plan­e­tary force.

As the world warms, it will un­dergo a phase change: like wa­ter mol­e­cules fall­ing out of their crys­talline pat­terns in a melt­ing ice­block, ev­ery­thing we know will shift and re­ar­range it­self. Flows of air and wa­ter will wan­der, rain­fall will mi­grate, seas will rise, cy­clones will range fur­ther from the equa­tor, old ways of liv­ing will be­come im­pos­si­ble, and habi­tats and so­ci­eties will trans­form and col­lapse.

“We thought we could con­trol the en­vi­ron­ment, but our tools have turned against us,” says Tim Neale, the an­thro­pol­o­gist who or­gan­ised the con­fer­ence. “So the idea is to use this as a mo­ment to re­flect on what kinds of knowl­edge we need to get us out of this cri­sis.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.