Thanks to Paul Petritsch, Gabriela Mackert, Katrin Hornek and the whole team at Universität für Angewandte Kunst in Wien / University for Applied Art Vienna for two inspiring days May 12/13 2015 about the Anthropocene under the header “Humans make Nature”…It was great to share the stage with Gloria Meynen, Heather Davis and Matt Edgeworth. And on top a joint visit to the memorial for Eduard Suess, early Anthropocene geologist who coined the word “biosphere”. Glad to see his head overgrown by lichens. Great days, would love to come back.
The topic of my 45 minute talk: “Since Eugene Stoermer and Paul Crutzen proposed to rename our current geological epoch in the year 2000 in an attempt to reflect man-made changes to planet Earth, the idea of an “Anthropocene” is going viral. Natural scientists, humanities scholars, artists, politicians, environmentalists and others are trying to grasp and explore the significance of this new concept and to understand its implications. What is the Anthropocene — the sum of all environmental problems, or more, an expression of a new phase in human and planetary evolution? When did it start — as early as in 1610 when mass murder of Native Americans by European settlers led to a regrowth of the forest to such an extent that global CO2 levels dropped, or later, in 1945, when nuclear explosions and a spread of plastic objects created permanent “future fossils”? What does it mean to live in the Anthropocene — will this new epoch be used as a justification for human mastery, dominion and entitlement, or will it herald a cultural transition towards a civilization more tuned to the ecology of the planet? Is the Anthropocene anthropocentric by nature or does it open up civilization to a more fluid relationship with all life on Earth? The Anthropocene concept is far from being a fixed mind-set. It rather serves as an eye-opener to the extent that metaphysical and physical borders between culture and nature are vanishing. It offers itself as an emergent and diverse exploratory and transformational tool, or, as science historian Jürgen Renn has said, as “a process that reflects about itself.”