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VIII. Pedia Sapiens: A New Genesis Future

1. An Anthropocene to Earthropocene Moment

Glikson, Andrew. Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon. Springer Briefs, 2014. An Australian National University Earth and paleoclimate scientist argues that our human use of combustion in many forms is a prime reason for global environmental stress. We also note this work for its Epilogue: The Life Force which alludes that the human intelligence able to learn and do all this appears to be written into the very physical laws from which it evolved and emerged. See also Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene (Springer, 2016) by Glikson and Colin Groves.

Unique among all creatures, further to the increase in its cranial volume from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens, the use of tools and cultural and scientific creativity, the genus Homo is distinguished by the mastery of fire, which since about two million years ago has become its blueprint. Through the Holocene and culminating in the Anthropocene, the burning of much of the terrestrial vegetation, excavation and combustion of fossil carbon from up to 420 million years-old biospheres, are leading to a global oxidation event on a geological scale, a rise in entropy in nature and the sixth mass extinction of species. (Publisher)

Glikson, Andrew and Colin Groves. Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene. Berlin: Springer, 2016. An Australian National University earth systems geologist and a biological anthropologist explain that the latest appearance of homo sapiens is much due to the presence, and usage of oxygenated combustion over the past billion and million years. A closing chapter Rare Earth goes on to say that intelligence is written into the laws of nature, but avoids an “anthropocentric” view.

The book outlines principal milestones in the evolution of the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere during the last 4 million years in relation with the evolution from primates to the genus Homo – which uniquely mastered the ignition and transfer of fire. The advent of land plants since about 420 million years ago ensued in flammable carbon-rich biosphere interfaced with an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Born on a flammable Earth surface, under increasingly unstable climates descending from the warmer Pliocene into the deepest ice ages of the Pleistocene, human survival depended on both―biological adaptations and cultural evolution, mastering fire as a necessity. Once the climate stabilized in the early Holocene, since about ~7000 years-ago production of excess food by Neolithic civilization along the Great River Valleys has allowed human imagination and dreams to express themselves through the construction of monuments to immortality. Further to burning large part of the forests, the discovery of combustion and exhumation of carbon from the Earth’s hundreds of millions of years-old fossil biospheres set the stage for an anthropogenic oxidation event, affecting an abrupt shift in state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere system.

Hamilton, Clive. Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2017. This latest work by the Charles Sturt University, Canberra environmental ethicist brings a novel viewpoint by proposing a “new anthropocentrism.” Rather than avoiding or denying our global presence, a respectful acceptance and avail of human biospheric agency can rightly mitigate and sustain.

Hamilton, Clive, et al. The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis. London: Routledge, 2015. With co-editors Christophe Bonneuil and Francois Gemenne, an Australian-French nexus tries to get a bead and read on what is happening with regard to the state and future of a planetary civilization. Initial chapters address how a prior Holocene era is now taken over by profligate, industrious human beings, such as The Anthropocene and the Convergence of Histories by Dipesh Chakrabarty. A next section entitled Catastrophism contains Eschatology in the Anthropocene: from the Chronos of Deep Time to the Kairos of the Age of Humans by Michael Northcott. Rethinking Politics proceeds with essays such as Accepting the Reality of Gaia by Isabelle Stengers and Bruno Latour’s Telling Friends from Foes in the Time of the Anthropocene. And for the record Clive Hamilton is the 2006 coauthor of Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough.

Hofman, Courtney, et al. Conservation Archaeogenomics: Ancient DNA and Biodiversity in the Anthropocene. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Online July, 2015. Smithsonian Institute archaeobiologists press on with genome reconstructions of precursor creatures to the extent that understandings of past environmental stresses can provide a vital perspective to guide future natural and social sustainability endeavors.

There is growing consensus that we have entered the Anthropocene, a geologic epoch characterized by human domination of the ecosystems of the Earth. With the future uncertain, we are faced with understanding how global biodiversity will respond to anthropogenic perturbations. The archaeological record provides perspective on human–environment relations through time and across space. Ancient DNA (aDNA) analyses of plant and animal remains from archaeological sites are particularly useful for understanding past human–environment interactions, which can help guide conservation decisions during the environmental changes of the Anthropocene. Here, we define the emerging field of conservation archaeogenomics, which integrates archaeological and genomic data to generate baselines or benchmarks for scientists, managers, and policy-makers by evaluating climatic and human impacts on past, present, and future biodiversity. (Abstract)

Knoll, Andrew, et al, eds. Fundamentals of Geobiology. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. A literally landmark volume that represents another union of physical matter and proactive life. It also stands as a 21st century affirmation of the dynamic earth systems vision, especially from Vladimir Vernadsky and James Lovelock. Initial chapters review environmental effects of Global Carbon, Nitrogen, Sulfur, Iron, and Oxygen Cycles. Bacterial Biomineralization, Microbe Interfacial Chemistry, Plants and Animals as Geobiological Agents, and like contributions further document. And as if a Noosphere retrospective of how we came to arise, the Geobiology of the Archean (2.5–4 bya), Proterozoic (2.5bya-500mya), and Phanerozoic (500mya-now) Eons is next described. Of more interest are Geochemical Origins of Life (noted in that section) and Mineralogical Co-evolution of the Geosphere and Biosphere by Robert Hazen. A final chapter, Geobiology of the Anthropocene, looks at sudden, drastic impacts of human civilization, to which this earthly organic vista is seen to help find a viable remediation.

Geobiology is a scientific discipline in which the principles and tools of biology are applied to studies of the Earth. (1) In short, Earth surface processes once considered to be largely physical in nature – for example weathering and erosion – are now known to have key biological components. Life plays a critical role in the Earth system. (2)

Lewis, Simon and Mark Maslin. The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. University College London environmentalists track this accelerant Earthsphere phase as industrial technologies take over, unawares, at once to construct better habitats, which now trash land, sea and air. Our interest is a closing section A New Way of Life? for it alludes at this global apocalyptic or transfiguration moment, that only a whole scale, intentional, agreed reconception of our human abide in balanced harmony with natural ecologies can save and foster us.

Lorimer, Jamie. The Anthropo-scene: A Guide for the Perplexed. Social Studies of Science. Online October, 2016. We cite this paper by an Oxford University geographer for its survey of eclectic perceptions upon this global advent of a novel, humanzoic age. Five aspect are noted: Earth systems, intellectual zeitgeist, ideologies, new ontologies, and science fiction.

Miraldo, Andreia, et al. An Anthropocene Map of Genetic Diversity. Science. 353/1532, 2016. A team from Denmark, China, and England provide a global graphic to depict how this human age has come to impact and change the variety and distribution animal species.

Monastersky, Richard. The Human Age. Nature. 519/145, 2015. An introductory report on definitions, orientations, and aspects on the increasing adoption of a radical new evolutionary and historical era of humanity’s technological profligate florescence. Much more can be found in dedicated new journals such as Anthropocene (Elsevier), The Anthropocene Review (Sage), and others. The upshot, or overshoot, is that we all had better recognize that something epochal is going on which demands our attention and sustainable remediation. See also When did the Anthropocene Begin? by Jan Zalasiewicz, et al in Quaternary International (January 2015), which is most attributed to the “great acceleration” of the mid 20th century.

Moser, Keith. Rethinking the Essence of Human and Other-Than-Human Communication in the Anthropocene Epoch: A Biosemiotic Interpretation of Edgar Morin’s “Complex Thought.”. Humanities. 7/2, 2018. We note this intriguing essay by a Mississippi State University professor of language studies as an insightful take on the nonagenarian French systems sage endeavor to articulate an expansive, semiotic sense of a natural literacy far beyond humans alone. An opening section is Communication as a Universal Property of Life whence one may gain an abiding sense of an “Ecosmos” and “eCosmos” as both ecological and loquacious.

The purpose of this essay is to explore the philosophical and linguistic implications of the French philosopher Edgar Morin’s “complex thought.” In stark contrast to standard communicative models which profess that Homo sapiens are the only organisms that are capable of engaging in semiosis, Morin unequivocally proves that other-than-human communication is laden with significance and purpose. Living on an imperiled planet that is increasingly defined by an anthropogenic, ecological calamity and spiraling further out of control with each passing day, Morin persuasively argues that we must transcend our myopic, anthropocentric frame of reference and adopt a more ecocentric view of communication. (Abstract)

Nicholson, Simon and Sikina Jinnah, eds. New Earth Politics: Essays from the Anthropocene. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. An academic anthology with sections about Causes of the New Earth, Scholarship as Engagement, Pedagogies of Hope, New Earth Institutions, Social Movements, Geopolitics, Climate Change, and Narrative Frames for Living on a New Earth. Some chapters are Person/Planet Politics by Karen Litfin, Scholarship as Citizenship by Richard Falk, and Toward Sharing Our Ecospace by Joyeeta Gupta.

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