Book review, After Nature A Politics for the Anthropocene by Jedediah Purdy

The idea of the “Anthropocene” was first proposed in the 1970s, and came into widespread use in the early 2000s. Scientists began to argue that there had been a seismic temporal shift, from the geological epoch inhabited by humans, known as the Holocene, to one in which humankind had itself become an agent of geological change. Initially, the term was adopted by the “global change” research community: natural and social scientists studying global warming, climate change, and other planetary “symptoms” of the Anthropocene era. By the late 2000s, the idea had been taken up by geologists, who look to stratigraphic evidence—rocks, glacier ice, marine sediment—to measure the chemical composition of the global atmosphere and chart the impact of human activity on it. Later this year, the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy will meet to decide whether enough evidence exists (and, if so, whether it would be scientifically useful) to designate the Anthropocene as an official geological epoch.