Talk abstract “Structures of deep time in the Anthropocene”
Anthropocene puts incommensurable time scales in contact with each other, to show the relevance of what humanity has been realizing in historical times, and to emphasize the impact of our everyday behaviours and choices. To enable cross-referencing of geologic formations and events from different places on the planet, geologists have subdivided the Earth’s history in periods and eras. Among the concluded periods, the shortest one, Neogene, lasted for more than 20 million years, while the longest periods amounts to over 200 million years. The enormity of these time intervals is hard to imagine, yet necessary to capture and define all the phenomena that are meaningful for the history of such a huge and old system as the Earth.
A different logic – the logic of “deep time” and “macroevolution” – is necessary to reflect on a time scale where the history of not only species, but whole Families and Groups, is nothing but the blink of an eye. The current period, Holocene, has started only 11.700 thousand years ago, at the end of the last glacial Age, but a serious scientific proposal was advanced to consider that a different period, the Anthropocene, has already taken over from the Holocene. What are the dilemmas, paradoxes, challenges, and implications of this mental operation, that implies the contaction of temporal scales, and the comparison of everyday life time with deep evolutionary time? Continue reading Structures of Deep Time in the Anthropocene→
To enable cross-referencing of geologic formations and events from different places on the planet, geologists have subdivided the Earth’s history in periods and eras. Among the concluded periods, the shortest one, Neogene, lasted for more than 20 million years (My), while the longest periods amount to 200+ My. The enormity of these time intervals is hard to imagine, yet necessary to capture and define all the phenomena that are meaningful for the history of such a huge and old system as the Earth. A different logic – the logic of “deep time” and “macroevolution” – is necessary to reflect on a time scale where the history of not only species, but whole Families and Groups, is nothing but the blink of an eye. The current period, Holocene, has started only 11.700 thousand years (Ky) ago, at the end of the last glacial Age, but a serious scientific proposal was advanced to consider that a different period, the Anthropocene, has already taken over from the Holocene. Homo Sapiens as a biological species is 200 to 150 Ky old. The beginning of cognitively modern humans and their diffusion on global scale is even more recent: 80 to 60 Kya (the period traditionally described as the Palaeolithic Revolution or the “great leap forward”). Rhetorically, Anthropocene puts incommensurable time scales in contact with each other, to show the relevance of what humanity has been realizing in historical times, and even of our everyday behaviors and choices. What are the dilemmas, paradoxes, challenges, and implications of this mental operation?
Abstract: Empathy towards planet Earth seems to be the crux of an education paradox in the anthropocene, well exemplified by the story of “Gaia” in the scientific community and in the global society. The image of the world as a living being is probably as old as our species. Ancient views based on Mother Earth have been providing the narrative framework for education in many cultures for thousands years, and some aspects are somehow retraced in today’s sustainability education, although with different nuances and metaphysical assumptions. Around 1970, the idea of Earth as an organism was named “Gaia” and filled with scientific content by James Lovelock. He pointed out signatures of global processes thereby, he argued, the biosphere participates into planetary self-regulation around optimal conditions, just like in the physiology of a giant organism. In the scientific community Gaia would have troubled fortune: as a “hypothesis” or “theory” it was afflicted by serious and insistent objections, and it never got to be acknowledged. At the same time, for the public Gaia never ceased to be terribly attractive. Indeed, its communication effectiveness was emphasized by its advocates, who pointed out its educational potential in sensitizing people to care for the planet. But these aspects, too, were seen negatively by critics: the ‘homeostatic’ properties of Gaia would rather play in favor of passive attitudes and of economic interests of impacting and polluting companies; moreover, the organismal nature of Gaia would stimulate mystical views, ‘pagan religions’, and ultimately an anti-scientific mindset. The solution to this paradox should perhaps be sought in the double direction of reconsidering some human dimensions of scientific work and of setting up scientific education more coherent with the “Nature of Science” in the Anthropocene.
The meeting aims to contribute to probe the foundations of an ethical approach to biodiversity and of human responsibility upon the non-human, through a reflection on those long-term transformations of science, society, and philosophical self-representation that have modified the horizon of human relations.
Since the 1960s, the ecological urgency has strongly pushed towards an assumption of responsibility towards the environment. In those years, science itself had warned about climate change and vertiginous biodiversity reduction that are now seen to characterize the current epoch, the “anthropocene”. An integrated reflection on biodiversity arose, capable of overcoming the boundaries of Modern philosophical anthropology, and situating humans into a system of relationships and interdependencies embracing non-human forms–from other living beings to abiotic environmental factors. The peculiar ability of broadening the horizon of empathic experience beyond mirroring seems to be rooted in massive developments of neuroscientific knowledge and technology, as well as in the cognitive and affective construction of our species. A discussion on evolution (natural and socio-cultural) and a renewed reflection on the very concept of human nature are therefore necessary. Just at the peak of science and technology’s manipulative power upon living nature, some authors glimpse the rise of a new opportunity: that of an empathic “age” or “civilization” (Rifkin 2010, De Waal 2010), where relatioships with different forms of “otherness” are managed in an inclusive and relational way.
Other speakers: S. Caianiello (chair), A. Minelli, L. Fogassi, C. Morabito & G. Galloni, G. Fiorito, U. Leone.
Organization: L’evento è organizzato con i fondi del Progetto PRIN 2010-2011 “Ethos e Natura. Modelli storici, problemi teorici e questioni metodologiche”, cofinanziato dal MIUR. Coordinatore nazionale: Prof. Franco Biasutti (Unità di ricerca di Catania, coordinata da G. Bentivegna, su “L’agire morale tra natura e cultura. Lineamenti storiografici e riflessioni teoriche”). Con la collaborazione dell’Istituto per la storia del pensiero filosofico e scientifico moderno del C.N.R., (nel contesto del ciclo “Osservatorio sui saperi umanistici”) e del Centro Interuniversitario “Res Viva”. Inserita nel programma del Dottorato di Filosofia della Federico II (in particolare curriculum di bioetica).
Look for it in the Talks page (with additional links):
2015, Feb 4 (h.9:00) – “Biodiversità ed estensione dell’empatia”, org. by Istituto per la Storia del Pensiero Filosofico e Scientifico Moderno (ISPF), C.N.R., Sezione di Filosofia del Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici dell’Università di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples, IT: I paradossi di Gaia. Conference talk.
I participate in ANTHROPOCENE CAMPUS, Berlin, November 14-22, 2014. I have been selected among “100 outstanding post graduates as well as actors from culture, society, and the arts”, nominated by prof. Elena Bougleux (University of Bergamo).
Encouraging new forms of transdisciplinary discourse and research THE ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT 2013/14 at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (HKW) aims to investigate the manifold implications of the Anthropocene hypothesis for cultures of knowledge. If indeed humankind has become the dominant biogeophysical force, effecting changes on a planetary scale, how can the arts, sciences and humanities contribute to a critical awareness, understanding and responsible co-shaping of these transformations? How can creative and problem-oriented modes of knowledge production and educational practices be developed?
Copyright: Globaia, Planet Under Pressure, SEI, SRC, CSIRO. This film was commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, London 26-29 March, a major international conference focusing on solutions. planetunderpressure2012.net
The ANTHROPOCENE CURRICULUM addresses these questions by way of a cross-disciplinary experiment in higher education. Instigated by HKW and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (MPIWG) the project has brought together a group of 27 renowned university teachers from science, humanities, and art & design to collaboratively develop a set of topics relevant to the Anthropocene in an attempt to encourage cross-disciplinary thinking, mutual learning, and civic commitment as integral part into the curricula of universities and research institutions.
This exemplary curriculum will be put into teaching practice at the ANTHROPOCENE CAMPUS taking place November 14-22, 2014 at HKW in Berlin. One hundred international participants will be given the opportunity to engage in this curricular experiment, contributing their own perspectives and expertise. The Campus provides a transdisciplinary co-learning space for scholars from a wide range of disciplinary, academic, and professional backgrounds and opens up a forum for exploring the scopes, scales, and designs of Anthropocene relevant knowledge. The ANTHROPOCENE CAMPUS will be a central component of a series of public events at HKW – including lectures, workshops, exhibitions, screenings, and artistic events –, by which the two-year ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT will come to its close. An essential part of the output of the ANTHROPOCENE CURRICULUM will be the collaborative production of an ANTHROPOCENE COURSEBOOK.
Mauro Van Aken
Cultural Anthropologist, University of Milano Bicocca
April 12, 2012, 12:00pm
U6, 4th floor, room 4160 (polivalente), Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo 1, Milano
Abstract: Development and modernization policies, as they have been posed and imposed in many contexts of the Southern World, represent strong evolutionary ideologies of how other cultures should change. Modernization of water in arid places all over the Middle East did not only transfer a culturally and historically construed notion of water as H2O: it carried a project of society and a model of political and environmental relationships, which encountered other historical ideas of water/society relationship. Departing from an ethnography of the local conflicts around water in Jordan Valley, historic cradle of irrigation and agriculture, we shall propose the analysis of such intense changes in terms of interpretation, grafting, selection and opposition among “traits” and cultural practices.
The seminar is part of the CISEPS project “The diffusion of cultural traits”, whose goal is to trigger interdiciplinary debates, emphasizing common problems and peculiarities among economics, philosophy, anthropology, geography, history, biology and many more fields. Thinking in terms of cultural traits – i.e., characters depending in some way on social learning – doesn’t imply exhaustion of cultural processes; rather, it means thinking critically to scientific models and metaphors for studying culture.