Summary of Module
The concept of the Anthropocene suggests that humans have become primary environmental agents in transforming the earth and its geological and biological systems. This leads us to ask ourselves a few important questions. Are we all equally responsible for these changes? How have different peoples contributed differently to large-scale environmental change over the centuries? How should we respond to the challenges we face? Who should respond? What populations might be most threated by the Anthropocene? Who might the Anthropocene benefit? How do our ethical systems and moral frameworks shape our responses to the Anthropocene? How does our understanding of justice interact with our economic and political systems? These are just a few key questions that we need to ask as we reflect critically on the various and uneven experiences of the Anthropocene.
justice, responsibility, care, Capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, uneven development, racial geographies, accumulation, extraction, stewardship, green grabbing, green washing, Spaceship Earth, planetary thinking, species being, Earthly relations, Gaia, Cthulucene, anthropocentrism, intergenerational justice
Learning Outcomes (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
After completing this module, readers will be able
- to compare and contrast several prominent ethical responses to the Anthropocene
- to define the concept of “climate justice” and explain how it shapes various arguments about how to respond to climate change
- to explain how histories of race and empire reshape our understanding of the Anthropocene as both a concept and a phenomenon
- to construct a model of key ethical themes in the debates over the Anthropocene
- to evaluate how our conceptualization of the Anthropocene also shapes our responses and attitudes towards it
- to compare and contrast ethical frameworks and assess the degree to which they move beyond “business as usual” arguments and provoke more radical questions about the nature of justice, equity, and responsibility
Beginner Questions, Readings, and Activities
- What are the primary effects of climate change on Bangladesh, and what does it mean to the people who live there?
- How do different groups conceive the relationship between climate justice and human rights?
- How have religious leaders responded to climate change, and how do they frame the relationship between morality and responsibility to the planet?
- The Economist, Adapting to Climate Change, 2015.
- How Global Climate Change Is Already Devastating Bangladesh, 2015.
- Annalisa Savaresi, “The Paris Agreement: An Equity Perspective,” BENELEX, January 29, 2016.
- Davenport, Coral, and Campbell Robertson. “Resettling the First American ‘Climate Refugees.’” The New York Times, May 2, 2016, sec. U.S.
- Pope Francis, “Laudato Si,” May 24, 2015.
- International Islamic Climate Change Symposium, “Islamic Declaration on Climate Change,” August 18, 2015.
- International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC). “Key Issues.” IIPFCC, 2008. .
- Thomas Black, Sara, Richard Anthony Milligan, and Nik Heynen. “Solidarity in Climate/Immigrant Justice Direct Action: Lessons from Movements in the US South.” International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 40, no. 2 (2016): 284–98.
- “U.S. Intelligence Warns Against Security Implications of Leaving Paris Accord.” NPR.org. Accessed October 7, 2017.
Create a list of all of the effects of climate change that you have encountered in your reading. In reflecting on these challenges, what policy responses do you think would be environmentally just and ethical?
Intermediate Questions, Readings, and Activities
- How do histories of race and empire reshape our understanding of the Anthropocene as both a concept and a phenomenon?
- What are the key ethical themes that are emerging in discourse about the Anthropocene?
- In what ways do ethics and our notions of environmental justice matter in shaping our responses to the Anthropocene?
- Grinham, Alistair, Badin Gibbes, Javier Leon, John Church, and Simon Albert. “Sea-Level Rise Has Claimed Five Whole Islands in the Pacific: First Scientific Evidence.” The Conversation, May 6, 2016. .
- Albert, Simon, Javier X. Leon, Alistair R. Grinham, John A. Church, Badin R. Gibbes, and Colin D. Woodroffe. “Interactions between Sea-Level Rise and Wave Exposure on Reef Island Dynamics in the Solomon Islands.” Environmental Research Letters 11, no. 5 (2016): 54011.
- Dreher, Tanja, and Michelle Voyer. “Climate Refugees or Migrants? Contesting Media Frames on Climate Justice in the Pacific.” Environmental Communication 9, no. 1 (March 2015): 58–76.
- Clay, Elonda. “How Does It Feel to Be an Environmental Problem? Studying Religion and Ecology in the African Diaspora.” In Inherited Land: The Changing Grounds of Religion and Ecology, edited by Whitney A. Bauman, Richard R. Bohannon II, and Kevin J. O’Brien. Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2011.
- Guha, Ramachandra. “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique.” Environmental Ethics 11, no. 1 (1989): 71–83.
- Haraway, Donna. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.” Environmental Humanities, no. 1 (2015): 159-65.
- Moore, Jason W. “Name the System! Anthropocenes & the Capitalocene Alternative.” Jason W. Moore, October 9, 2016..
- Pulido, L. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity 1: White Supremacy vs White Privilege in Environmental Racism Research.” Progress in Human Geography 39, no. 6 (01 2015): 809–17.
- ———. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity II: Environmental Racism, Racial Capitalism and State-Sanctioned Violence.” Progress in Human Geography 41, no. 4 (2017): 524–33.
- Rudiak-Gould, Peter. “The Social Life of Blame in the Anthropocene.” Environment and Society 6, no. 1 (2015): 48–65.
- Schmidt, Jeremy J, Peter G Brown, and Christopher J Orr. “Ethics in the Anthropocene: A Research Agenda.” The Anthropocene Review 3, no. 3 (2016): 188–200.
- Taylor, Affrica, and Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw. “Learning with Children, Ants, and Worms in the Anthropocene: Towards a Common World Pedagogy of Multispecies Vulnerability.” Pedagogy, Culture & Society 23, no. 4 (2015): 507–29.
- Warren, Phillip Dane. “Forced Migration After Paris Cop21: Evaluating the ‘Climate Change Displacement Coordination Facility.’” Columbia Law Review 116, no. 8 (December 2016): 2103–44.
Create a list of the new concepts that you have encountered in your readings (e.g. Cthulucene, multispecies common worlds, etc.) and explain how they necessitate different ethical frameworks and stances.
Advanced Questions, Readings, and Activities
- What are “multinatural ontologies,” and how do they open up new spaces for environmental ethical inquiry?
- In what ways might universalist ethical narratives be in conflict with the diverse experiences, histories, worldviews, and lived realities of peoples around the globe?
- Baker, Lauren, Samara Brock, Luisa Cortesi, Aysen Eren, Chris Hebdon, Francis Ludlow, Jeffrey Stoike, and Michael Dove. “Mainstreaming Morality: An Examination of Moral Ecologies as a Form of Resistance.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture 11, no. 1 (2017): 23–55.
- Lorimer, Jamie. “Multinatural Geographies for the Anthropocene.” Progress in Human Geography 36, no. 5 (2012): 593–612.
- Witt, Joseph, and Bron Taylor. “Special Issue Introduction: Religion and Eco-Resistance Movements in the Twenty-First Century.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture 11, no. 1 (2017): 5–22.
- Bay, Uschi. “Biopolitics, Complex Systems Theory and Ecological Social Work: Conceptualising Ways of Transitioning to Low Carbon Futures.” Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review 28, no. 4 (October 2016): 89–99.
- Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (2009): 197–222.
- Mori, Katsuhiko. “Global Justice in the Anthropocene: The Fourth Pillar Debate in Sustainable Development.” The Journal of Social Science, no. 77 (2014): 101–122.
- Moore, Jason W. “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 44, no. 3 (2017): 594–630.
- ———. “The Capitalocene Part II: Accumulation by Appropriation and the Centrality of Unpaid Work/Energy.” The Journal of Peasant Studies (2017): 1–43.
- Harrington, Joanna. “Climate Change, Human Rights, and the Right to Be Cold.” Fordham Environmental Law Review 18, no. 3 (2007): 513–535.
- Norton-Smith, Kathryn, Kathy Lynn, Karletta Chief, Karen Cozzetto, Jamie Donatuto, Margaret Hiza Redsteer, Linda E. Kruger, Julie Maldonado, Carson Viles, and Kyle P. Whyte. “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: A Synthesis of Current Impacts and Experiences.” Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-944. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 136 P. 944 (2016).
- Whyte, Kyle. “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, February 28, 2017.
Create a concept map that illustrates the multiple approaches to environmental justice that you have encountered in your readings. What concepts are missing and how would they alter the interpretation in the texts that you have read?