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Excerpt from The Myth of Human Supremacy

Anthropocene (p. 269)

From chapter "The Sociopocene"

Members of this culture are so narcissistic that they’re now calling this era the Anthropocene: the Age of Man. The term was devised by someone who meant it pejoratively, that humans have become so destructive of the planet that they could be considered a geologic force. But it didn’t take long for human supremacists to turn the term into the sort of self-congratulatory rationalization for further destruction to which we have become so accustomed, as in Emma Marris proclaiming we run the earth, as in Charles Mann declaring that “Anything goes.”

I find the term really harmful, for a number of reasons, primarily that

the term Anthropocene not only doesn’t help us stop this culture from killing the planet, it contributes directly to the problems it purports to address.

It’s also grossly misleading. Humans aren’t the ones “transforming”— read: killing—the planet. Civilized humans are. There’s a difference. It’s the difference between old growth forests and New York City; the difference between flocks of passenger pigeons so large they darkened the sky for days at a time, and skies full of airplanes; the difference between sixty million bison and pesticide- and herbicide-laden fields of genetically modified corn. It’s the difference between rivers full of salmon and rivers killed by hydroelectric dams. It’s the difference between cultures whose members recognize themselves as one among many, and members of this culture who convert everything to their own use.

Among other problems, the word Anthropocene is an attempt to naturalize the murder of the planet by pretending that the problem is “man” and not this particular culture (and other civilizations).

It also manifests the supreme narcissism that has characterized this culture from the beginning. Of course members of this culture would present their own perspective and their behavior as representing “man” as a whole; other cultures have never really existed anyway, except as lesser breeds in the way of members of the One True Way getting access to resources. And of course this is happening today, as Indigenous peoples are still being driven off their land, and Indigenous languages are being driven extinct at a proportionally faster rate than nonhuman species.

Using the term Anthropocene feeds into that narcissism. Gilgamesh destroyed a forest and made a name for himself; this culture destroys a planet and names a geologic age after itself. What a surprise.