About the Misanthropocene
MY interest in the idea of what I'm calling "The Misanthropocene" began in the fall of 2013. The first time I used the term was after meeting and interviewing political ecologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. What struck me after meditating on the multiple crises of the Anthropocene, is the difficulty of envisioning solutions to those crises, especially in light of a growing need for non-anthropocentric epistemologies and ethics. At a time when we are struggling with the question of human intervention, we are simultaneously disappearing the 'human' from the privileged seat of history. Post-humanism, anti-humanism, non-anthropocentrism - I see each of these theoretical moves as a response to the humano-centric modes of existence that are uncontestedly tied to the environmental crisis and the destructiveness that marks the new age of the human: the Anthropocene.
AT the same time as we are becoming more theoretically attuned to the more-than-human or non-human world, we are becoming less secure in our ability to resolve the problems we've created. We have grown, smartly, I think, skeptical of human enterprising, of human power, technology and mastery. We've also developed a keen distrust of human-based ethics or solutions-thinking. In the Western world at least, we've developed something of a mistaste for the human. We've developed a deep mistrust and dislike of humanity, its history and impacts, its unintended consequences and persistent inability to avoid negative impacts. In the age of the human, the human has become gauche.
The Anthropocene is (culturally, politically, ethically) the Misanthropocene.
I believe this sentiment is relevant in fields far outside the realms of theory and philosophy. Our cultural obsession with extinction stories, for example, with the end of the human is, I argue, a part of the ethos of the misanthropocene. The hatred of humanity is perhaps most explicitly pronounced in the new wave of zombie apocalypse and environmental disaster stories, but is also just a prevalent in thought experiments like Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Alan Weisman's The World Without Us.
Back when I first began developing the concept of the misanthropocene, I was taking a course entitled "Political Ecologies of the Anthropocene" with Professor Jessica Dempsey from the Environmental Studies Department at the University of Victoria. While reading through the emerging body of critical and scientific literature surrounding the neologism 'Anthropocene' I also crafted a self-directed course call "The End of the Human: Anti-Humanism and Extinction in the Anthropocene" with Professor Richard Pickard from the English Department. I found myself increasingly interested in the relationship between the multiple environmental crises of the Anthropocene and our creative urge to disappear humanity from off the face of the planet.
We're heralding the end of the human well before it's actually happened.
About CAROL LINNITT
I'm a PhD student at the University of Victoria in the Department of English and the Cultural, Social and Political Thought program. I completed a Master's in English at York University and a Master's in Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. My undergrad degree in English Literature was completed at the University of British Columbia.
I'm also managing editor and co-founder of The Narwhal, an independent, non-profit online magazine dedicated to telling stories about Canada’s natural environment you can’t find anywhere else. Read about our vision for in-depth, original, public interest journalism.