A broad consensus prevails today among science communities that we have entered an era known as ‘the Anthropocene’. For the first time, the outer limit or tipping point in Nature’s capacities to adapt to the destruction of its essential resources is in sight (e.g., grave depletion of the Earth’s biodiversity and loss of a ‘safe’ nitrogen cycle). Over the past two centuries in particular, humanity has dramatically altered the Earth’s atmosphere and natural landscape, becoming in the process a formidable geological force of change in its own right. The fact that humankind today is the most significant source of change in planetary terms requires a reflective moment. We are now in the rather daunting position of determining how this tectonic shift will shape the future of this planet and its populations. This position raises serious moral questions as to how ideas of justice should be redefined in response to rapidly changing ecological circumstances (e.g., grave loss of land and other essential resources on the part of many communities) as well as what kind of ‘Anthropocene futures’ we are shaping for generations to come. As Strydom notes in his article ‘Cognitive fluidity and climate change’, humanity is not only tasked with the challenge of mastering an objectivist knowledge of nature’s outer limits but also of complementing scientific understanding of the biological, chemical and physical substance of life with a more reflexive hermeneutic reconstruction of how humanity has arrived at this point of destruction in its historical development. If this moment of crisis is to be transformative, then such reflection must also be critical and disclosing of those underlining aspects of modern social life that contribute detrimentally to human ecological destruction.
Read also: The Anthropocene – A governance perspective