The Anthropocene Age

“Anthropocene” is a new word for me but it is one I’ve been looking for.

It refers to the idea put forward by sciency types that the earth has entered a new geological age, one defined be humanity actively shaping it. This article by Anglican Theologian Ephraim Radner applies the concept to human culture: we no longer live in the world as our ancestors did, but rather we live in a completely new way. Our relationships with our neighbors, our nations, and the natural world are fundamentally changed.

Everything about the way we order our lives — from iPhones to supermarkets to contraception to PowerPoints to political campaigns and the publishing of books and playing of music, from how we study or spend our vacations or exercise to how we have children and talk to our children or talk about other people close or far away — all of this is caught up in dynamics of expectation and interaction that are a part of the obscuring character of our era… they are part and parcel of almost all of the dynamics of the Anthropocene: individualized, grasping, superficially attuned to their being, unstable and unaware, drifting, inarticulately anxious.

As an Anglican cleric the author is most concerned with the fact that the Anthropocene culture makes it impossible to believe in God because it undermines the experience of being a creature: it alienates man from nature and hides his fragility from him. Churches are unable to respond to this because they themselves attempt to use the tools of the Anthropocene culture – they don’t know anything else.

Not everything about the Anthropocene age is bad – some things are neutral or even good, but it inexorably drives towards an anxious, deracinated man. The main reactions to it seem (to me) to be religious fundamentalism or environmentalism. My guess is that both reactions will always end up being absorbed by the Anthropocene super-culture.

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