For many, the idea of the Anthropocene seems reasonable. Moreover, the idea of the Anthropocene attracts attention across academic disciplines and in popular discourse and has become something of a meme. The Anthropocene animates discussions amongst environmental humanists, working in fields like philosophy and literary studies, committed to exploring human value systems and motivations that have contributed to current planetary crises.
Not everyone, however, has warmed to the newly-proposed epoch. Here’s why: as a concept, the Anthropocene operates under the assumption that the human species as a whole is responsible for potentially irreversible environmental catastrophe without acknowledging that some (read: industrialized Western societies) are far more responsible than others (developing nations, indigenous peoples) for rising carbon emissions, ocean acidification, industrial pollution, and the like. Moreover, the Anthropocene is, by default, anthropocentric – in other words, it puts the human species on a pedestal, portraying it as a supreme agent of change. This is arguably how we got here in the first place: certain groups of humans – particularly those committed to advancing colonial, imperial, and capitalist agendas – have long sought to “conquer” or “tame” nature in pursuit of wealth and driven by a deep belief in the superiority of the human species, especially certain “privileged” groups.
Because of these features, the Anthropocene does not necessarily resonate within indigenous communities, many of whom are disproportionately affected by climate change and environmental injustice.