The End of the Anthropocene

The End of the Anthropocene, a retort to Stewart Brand.

THAT popular science has a difficult relationship with mainstream research is evidenced by the introduction of a term universalised by atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen nearly two decades ago, at the turn of the new millennium.

In recent years, the Anthropocene, a period defined by significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, has begun to dislodge the long-held view that we are in an epoch known at the Holocene.

I will argue that not only are we in the early Anthropocene (arguably a sub-feature of the Holocene), but that human impact upon planet Earth, and hence our own habitat and species, requires that we define what it means to be human in rather different terms. And also, that far from being at the beginning of the early Anthropocene, we are instead approaching the end of this epoch. Human habitat, defined as it is by climate, polar ice, glaciation and weather systems (systems that have remained relatively stable for millennia), is entering a period of rapid change. All leading one to question what it is to be human. Changes that could lead to the sixth major mass extinction event, and along with it, not a de-extinction of mammoths, but rather the complete removal of anthropos by the technium as a defining moment of evolution.

A spate of articles on the subject of the Anthropocene followed its introduction, beginning in 2014  Borenstein, Seth (14 October 2014). “With their mark on Earth, humans may name era, too”.  Edwards, Lucy E. (30 November 2015). “What is the Anthropocene?”Eos96.  Castree, Noel (2015). Associated PressWaters CN et al. (2016). “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene”Science351 (6269) and “The Anthropocene: a primer for geographers” (PDF). Geography. 100 part 2: 66.

According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization in charge of defining Earth’s time scale, we are still officially in the Holocene epoch, an epoch which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age.

“But that label is outdated” writes Joseph Stromberg in the Smithsonian ” They argue for “Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”—because human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.”

Coupled with the emergence of this new epoch, used to define human intervention on our planet, has been the concomitant rise of new terms within popular culture to describe human evolution itself. Thus the rise of the cyborg, transhumanism and post-humanism, ‘concepts originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy’ that literally ‘means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human’.

“If the Jews disappear, so do we” Farid Esack

Dear Ed,

“If the Jews disappear, so do we” 29/1/2013 refers

I wish to commend those in South Africa’s Muslim community who have chosen to commemorate an event which has particular resonance for Jews, both within and without our borders. We must never forget that communists, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled and the unfit, all died together in the Nazi extermination camps. No one group was singled out for special treatment, and all were exposed to the horrors on an equal footing.

As a person of Jewish descent who grew up in the aftermath of the war, and the unspeakable tragedy which was unleashed upon the world, I believe I am entitled to speak out when members of my own community choose to ignore what is universal about the Holocaust, or Shoah as it is also known. Indeed, never again, should be never again for all people.

The universalism of the moral and ethical issues presented by the Nazi extermination camps and the ideology of eugenics which underpinned race supremacist notions of superiority and inferiority in Germany as too in our own country, have a particular lesson for South Africans. It is therefore no coincidence that hearings into Holocaust denial continue apace in Cape Town, as we as a nation slowly begin to confront the twin issue of Apartheid denial, for example attempts to lay the blame for apartheid on an unrelated group instead of tackling the real perpetrators, the ideologues and generals, the propagandists and politicians.

As Africans we need to reach out to the victims and the survivors of these and other tragedies and we need to be cognizant that as we do so, we are witness to new atrocities, the raging wars in the North – both Mali and Sudan which threaten to unleash further killings. As I write this letter, there is word of renewed offenses against humanity as 20 000 Sudanese are reported to have been massacred in Darfur.

Ideologies of race hatred which lead to such terrible deeds, the killing fields of Rwanda, need to be exposed. Ideologies which preach that a particular soul is qualitatively different from other souls, or that one race should be advantaged to the disadvantage of another, these are the seeds of hatred.

I therefore thank you once again for standing up for universalism in particular and human rights for all.

Yours sincerely,

David Robert Lewis

Daar Kom Barak Obama (Here comes Barak Obama)

Africas latest President?
Africa's latest President?

WELL it’s been news for at least two weeks, and the celebrations haven’t stopped down here. Africa has a new president and we really need to ask ourselves the question why it is that American politics exerts such influence and fascination? Could it be that our common dystanies are to be tied together as a nation? South Africa for instance is the only country besides the USA to have a “We the people…” constitution, and it goes without saying that our law is increasingly taking on American nuances, as my compatriots seek to emulated liberty and to have more than dominant one political party. The Shikota Express which launched at the same time as the announcement of Obama’s victory, looks set to shift South African politics in unfamilier ways, as the democrat, with the good looks and the civil rights pedigree has suddenly made Americans (and South Africans) feel good about themselves.

Hell, I am proud to be an African-American, even if, like every other colonised  and coloured soul out there, I don’t actually have the vote. Surely the question we should all be asking ourselves is how can the franchise be extended to include everybody? Other democratic states around the world? Can we all get along as people? Is the United Nations structure enough and can we afford to have a Republican disaster once a generation? For what its worth, I have been singing a local rendition of dixie for the last couple of days – a goema number about the Alabama, a confederate sailing ship that almost held the Cape hostage during the civil war. Obama has retaken the South – Africa of course.

CAPE TOWN: Nuisance bylaws could outlaw busking and street entertainment!

There seems to be some consternation by social advocacy groups that Cape Town’s proposed nuisance bylaws will outlaw begging and fail in the interpretation of statutes as they are applied to the poor, however there is another side to the story of public nuisance in the city.

For years, buskers have had a raw deal from council – it seems an unappreciative kneejerk response from local business who see panhandlers and “begging for entertainment” as a public nuisance. Let’s get real, some buskers aren’t all that good, but most of them deserve our support. Will the “begging bylaw” be applied to street entertainers, who routinely cadge tourists and passersby for the odd buck?

If you happen to be one of the many “public nuisances” in the city, then you will undoubtedly be outraged by remarks made by Councillor JP Smith. Panhandlers may be arrested if they get a “negative” response and buskers could be thrown in the tjokkie for simply”touching” tourists with their homegrown presentation. For some, the “touching” issue is a sensitive one, and a sad indightment of the Cape caste system that turns some residents into “untouchables”.

What looks reasonable on paper in council, could turn out to be draconian — who hasn’t been “touched” by poverty? Who  of you havn’t felt the heart move within, while listening to a Kwela player on Long Street, or a Marabi musician in St Georges Mall, some Goema in Greenmarket Square?

The DA would love to clean the streets of all those troublesome locals, while turning Cape Town into a Singapore for developers who have absolutely no interest in supporting “street entertainment” and who want nothing more than to “ban poverty” by pushing the poor into the ghetto.

Then there are people like myself, I must confess, who have been forced to panhandle their wares on occasion for want of a decent living.

Are we going to be arrested simply so that the bylaw can get  tested in court?

There are many buskers in Cape Town who attract tourists and get absolutely no support from our new pro-rich, anti-poor “larney” council who are the real untouchables.

Let’s never forget those of us who will never give up busking, since it is the one thing that is guaranteed to put you in touch with the people. So much for the Cape’s anti-touching laws.