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Saving nature in the Anthropocene

Abstract

This essay reviews six books broadly addressing the Anthropocene—the recent epoch in which humans play a dominant role on the face of the earth. Concepts of nature are still significant in contemporary American environmentalism despite its increasing diversity of issues, and no matter what the Anthropocene's challenges to naturalness nor what level of comfort or discomfort these works display regarding the Anthropocene, they largely retain some notion of nature. For balance, three books are included that generally speak positively of the Anthropocene and three that express various concerns: the former include Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene (2011), Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2011), and Living Through the End of Nature (2010); and the latter include Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (2010), The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder (2011), and Authenticity in Nature: Making Choices About the Naturalness of Ecosystems (2011). The latter group continues to distinguish nature from culture in the Anthropocene, thus effectively counting to two, whereas most among the former tend to count to one in celebrating a cultured nature. Embrace of the Anthropocene could, however, lead to counting beyond two by letting go of nature (and culture) as metaphysical categories qua moral shortcuts. The science and politics of living well in this enduring age of the Anthropocene may require attention less to generalities of nature than the interwoven details that constitute our environment.

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Notes

  1. See www.quaternary.stratigraphy.org.uk/workinggroups.

  2. See www.planetunderpressure2012.net.

  3. See royalsociety.org/policy/projects/people-planet.

  4. See www.stanford.edu/group/anthropocene.

  5. Paul Robbins and Sarah Moore, “Ecological Anxiety Disorder: Diagnosing the politics of the Anthropocene,” Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, New York City, February 26, 2012.

  6. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Inside_(movement).

  7. See www.moralground.com.

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Acknowledgments

I acknowledge support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to Lewis & Clark College for development of new approaches in environmental scholarship and the thoughtful comments of Todd Wildermuth on an earlier version of this essay.

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Correspondence to James D. Proctor.

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Proctor, J.D. Saving nature in the Anthropocene. J Environ Stud Sci 3, 83–92 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-013-0108-1

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