2015 May 12 / 18:00
Round Table
Christian Schwägerl

Touched Nature

Since Eugene Stoermer and Paul Crutzen proposed to rename our current geological epoch in the year 2000 in an attempt to reflect man-made changes to planet Earth, the idea of an “Anthropocene” is going viral. Natural scientists, humanities scholars, artists, politicians, environmentalists and others are trying to grasp and explore the significance of this new concept and to understand its implications. What is the Anthropocene — the sum of all environmental problems, or more, an expression of a new phase in human and planetary evolution? When did it start — as early as in 1610 when mass murder of Native Americans by European settlers led to a regrowth of the forest to such an extent that global CO2 levels dropped, or later, in 1945, when nuclear explosions and a spread of plastic objects created permanent “future fossils”? What does it mean to live in the Anthropocene — will this new epoch be used as a justification for human mastery, dominion and entitlement, or will it herald a cultural transition towards a civilization more tuned to the ecology of the planet? Is the Anthropocene anthropocentric by nature or does it open up civilization to a more fluid relationship with all life on Earth? The Anthropocene concept is far from being a fixed mind-set. It rather serves as an eye-opener to the extent that metaphysical and physical borders between culture and nature are vanishing. It offers itself as an emergent and diverse exploratory and transformational tool, or, as science historian Jürgen Renn has said, as “a process that reflects about itself.”

Video 1:33:08

Christian Schwägerl is a Berlin-based journalist, author and biologist. After many years as a correspondent for the feuilleton and political section of the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine and as a political correspondent for Der Spiegel magazine, he now freelances for Geo, Cicero and Die Zeit science magazine as well as for other media on topics of science, environment, technology and culture. Past winner of the Georg von Holtzbrinck Prize for Science Journalism and the Econsense Journalism Award. Schwägerl’s book “Menschenzeit” was published in German in 2010 by Riemann-Verlag, and re-edited in 2014 as “The Anthropocene” by Synergetic Press; “11 Looming Wars” with Andreas Rinke, published in 2012 by C. Bertelsmann Verlag; and “The Analogue Revolution”, published in 2014 by Riemann-Verlag. His first book has inspired “The Anthropocene Project”, a three-year collaboration at Haus der Kulturen der Welt cultural center in Berlin–for which he has acted as a co-founder and a board member–as well as the ongoing special exhibition about the Anthropocene at the Deutsches Museum, Munich. He is head of the Robert Bosch foundation’s 2014/2015 Master class on the “Future of Science Journalism.”

ROBYN  WOOLSTON, Habitus 2013, www.robynwoolston.com