The Anthropocene Divide: Obscuring Understanding of Social-Environmental Change

This journal reviews the Anthropocene in its original usage and as it has been imported by anthropology in light of evidence for long-term human-environment relationships. 

Strident debate about the Anthropocene’s chronological boundaries arises because its periodization forces an arbitrary break in what is a long-enduring process of human alterations of environments. 

More importantly, we argue that dividing geologic time based on a “step change” in the global significance of social-environmental processes contravenes the socially differentiated and changing character of human-environment relations. 

The consequences of human actions are not the coordinated synchronous product of a global humanity but rather result from heterogeneous activities rooted in situated sociopolitical contexts that are entangled with environmental transformations at multiple scales. Thus, the Anthropocene periodization, what we term the “Anthropocene divide,” obscures rather than clarifies understandings of human-environmental relationships.

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