Public Events

15 Mar 2017

Is this the ‘age of humans’? Science, politics and culture in the Anthropocene


This talk recorded on Weds 15 March 2017, 6pm at University of Nottingham Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre, Level 2, Chulan Tower, Number 3 Jalan Conlay, Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Martin Mahony (School of Geography, University of Nottingham UK)

Dr Martin Mahony is a Research Fellow in the Cultural & Historical Geography research group in the School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK. He works on the intersections of environment, science and society, with a particular focus on the cultural politics of climate, the history of the atmospheric sciences, and the science-policy interface. His current research interests include the historical geographies of science, empire and climate in the British colonial world.

Seminar Summary

A group of scientists responsible for splicing up geological time into distinct eras recently recommended that the ‘Anthropocene’ be officially adopted as a new geological epoch. This ‘age of humans’ is one which is defined by massive human impacts on the natural environment, to a point where that impact is actually visible in the geological record. The public debate about the Anthropocene has understandably been dominated by scientific voices debating the extent and timing of this human impact. But the concept also raises vital questions about how we understand the relationships between science, culture, politics, and environmental change, and more broadly of how we conceive of the human place in the world. This talk will introduce how social scientists and humanities scholars have been approaching the idea of the Anthropocene. While some see the concept as a useful challenge to conventional nature/culture distinctions, others see the whole idea of the Anthropocene as just another self-indulgent way of understanding our power and our subordination of nature. Others simply question who this ‘anthropos’ is that everybody’s talking about – aren’t some humans more responsible for the onset of the Anthropocene than others? The debate about the Anthropocene therefore provides an opportunity to reflect anew on how societies understand their relationships to each other and to nature, as well as to reflect on the complex relationships between science, politics and culture.