How to Use this Primer

Created for beginners and experts alike – for teachers, self-learners, policy makers, museum directors, funders, and others – An Anthropocene Primer is a guidebook to help make sense of the Anthropocene. Readers can work through it from front to back or dip in as necessary to guide their learning or teaching. The syllabus and bibliography are color-coded for beginner, intermediate, and expert readers. And, the exercises can be completed by individuals or groups.

Finding an entry point into the burgeoning literature on the Anthropocene can be intimidating.  Few texts are currently available to guide readers.[1] An Anthropocene Primer seeks to address this gap by highlighting key themes in the literature. It provides an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing together work in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts. Readers can use the primer to get a brief summary of important concepts. They can use it to brush up their understanding of emerging ideas. Or, they can use it to take a deep dive, moving from beginner to advanced readings.

This primer has three main sections: (1) An Anthropocene Syllabus; (2) Activities (including Anthropocenoscapes, A Deep Time Timeline, and Framing the Anthropocene); and (3) An Anthropocene Bibliography. We have designed An Anthropocene Syllabus for both self-directed and group learning. It allows for three levels of entry to each module: beginner, intermediate, advanced. The Activities Section contains a series of tactics for engaging with the Anthropocene. They encourage users to connect the global phenomenon of the Anthropocene with local conditions and personal experiences. Like the syllabus, An Anthropocene Bibliography was designed for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners. It offers key interdisciplinary readings to guide continued learning. It also includes a Spanish language supplement, which will be expanded for the Spanish language edition of An Anthropocene Primer.


[1] Of note are Noel Castree, “The Anthropocene: A Primer for Geographers,” Geography 100 (2015): 66–75; Jeremy Davies, The Birth of the Anthropocene (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2016); J. R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2016); Jan Zalasiewicz, The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Haus der Kulturen der Welt, “Anthropocene Curriculum,” n.d.,