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Beyond the Anthropocene: Un-Earthing an Epoch

Valerie Olson and Lisa Messeri

Keywords: Anthropocene; Earth; ecology; environment; extraterrestrial; geography; outer space; planet; system

Abstract

As “the Anthropocene” emerges as a geological term and environmental analytic, this paper examines its emerging rhetorical topology. We show that Anthropocene narratives evince a macroscale division between an “inner” and “outer” environment. This division situates an Anthropocenic environment that matters in the surface zone between Earth's subsurface and the extraterrestrial “outer spaces” that we address here. We review literature in the sciences and social sciences to show how contemporary environmental thinking has been informed by understandings of Earth's broader planet-scaled environmental relations. Yet, today's Anthropocene conversation draws analytic attention inward and downward. Bringing in literature from scholars who examine the role of the extraterrestrial and outer environmental perspectives in terrestrial worlds, we suggest that Anthropocenic theorizations can productively incorporate inclusive ways of thinking about environments that matter. We argue for keeping “Anthropocene” connected to its spatial absences and physical others, including those that are non-anthropos in the extreme.

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