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Anthropocene goes Mainstream: Elizabeth Kolbert in National Geographic
02.23.2011, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

spilled nurdles, image Paul L. Nettles

The sense that the geologic is a condition of daily life has gone a bit more mainstream this month with Elizabeth Kolbert’s article, “Enter the Anthropocene—Age of Man”, published in the March issue of National Geographic. We wrote about Kolbert’s initial sighting of the debate, and growing acceptance, of the term Anthropocene last year. In her May 2010 piece, “The Anthropocene Debate: Marking Humanity’s Impact” in Yale Environment 360, she outlined the growing concession among the scientific community that humans impact upon the planet likely does warrant a geologic era to be named—after us.

Her current piece in National Geographic delivers the news of this human inflected era to a much broader, politically diverse audience. It’s worth noting that mention of fallout from atomic testing in the 1950-60s, which will be recorded in the rock record for all time to come, and the massive quantities of radioactive waste currently waiting for “permanent storage” somewhere upon or within the earth, were oddly absent from the National Geographic piece.  But human-made radioactive materials were the first “markers” of the Anthropocene that Kolbert named in her recent discussion about the Anthropocene with Leonard Lopate on WNYC.

The National Graphic piece confirms that a shared sense of the geologic as a condition of contemporary life is gaining momentum and perhaps becoming more palpable. Humans seem to be sensing that many of our unstable physical, social, and political situations arise from and act back upon geologic materialities and forces.

Kolbert’s piece lends credence to our recent call for submissions (open to all), due next Tuesday, March 1st, 2011. In this edited collection we will assemble writers, educators, scholars, journalists, artists, filmmakers, and bloggers to give further form to these emerging sensations and sightings.

In other news, we’re now on twitter @geoturn, tweeting our sightings of the geologic turn as it unfolds.


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