The Ends of the Anthropocene

conversation with Emeritus Professor of Earth System Science Will Steffen

‘The Ends of the Anthropocene’, Sight Unseen is a written conversation with ‘Earth System’ Scientist, Emeritus Professor Will Steffen. for CoVA, VCA and Perimeter Books in partnership with the Science Gallery Melbourne.

Will Steffen recently published a report “Aim High, Go Fast” on the impacts of Climate Change on the planet and the urgency for all governments to act now to avoid catastrophic changes to our Earth System. I was asked by Centre of Visual Arts at the University of Melbourne to speak with Will Steffan about how artists might help visualise the impacts of the Anthropogenic changes the planet is facing.

Will has been involved since the beginning in the concepts of the Anthropocene­—a name that is given to the geological epoch that charts the impact humans have had on the earth.  He has been cited many times by those trying to expand, explore or contest the concept.   Our conversations trace the origin story of the theory of the Anthropocene and together we think about what might remain “unseen” through the ideas that it proposes, while also wondering what role artists might play in expanding its territories and communicating the risks we face if we fail to act.

Suggested Readings

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. The Climate of History in a Planetary Age, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021.

Karskens, Grace. People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2020.

McKittrick, Katherine and Sylvia Wynter, Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis, ed Katherine McKittrick, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015.

McNeil, John Robert, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, New York: W W Norton & Company, 2001

Moore, Jason. Capitalism in the Web of Life, New York: Verso, 2015.

Reynolds, Henry. Truth Telling: History, Sovereignty and the Uluru Statement, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2020.

Wulf, Andrea. The Invention of Nature, The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt the Lost Hero of Science, London: John Murray Publishers, 2016.

Yusoff, Kathryn. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018