Cities, Disasters, and Sociopaths

The three articles I chose to read from the Earth Island Journal edition on the Anthropocene were the report “City Life” and the two essays “Misanthropocene?” and “Age of the Sociopath.”

“City Life,” written by Juliet Kemp, has an interesting approach to the creation and expansion of cities. The article mentions that over half of the global population currently lives in cities and by the year 2050, an estimated 70 percent of humanity will live in cities. Focus is then put on the city of London where the author lives, which has transformed from a few farmers to eight million people in the last two millennia. Her take on urbanization is that humans may have created the city, but humans are not the only ones who own it. She gives examples of flora that have flourished within the cities boundaries, such as the rocket flowers and the tree-of-heaven. Insects have also adapted to the city environment, as there has been the discovery of a new insect in the London’s Natural History Museum. There are even animals that have adapted to city life in such as a way that it is beneficial for them. Birds have started using human trash to help build their homes (birds that live near her house use leftover plastic) and foxes can feed off of left over food without the danger of predators. Her article gave a less negative approach to the Anthropocene, one that I welcomed since most of the articles we read spell out all of the negative effects from our carbon emissions and the like.

“Misanthropocene?” written by Raj Patel compares the Anthropocene to a disaster. There are three characteristics of an ideal disaster: it needs to be small enough and sufficiently far away enough to do something about it and the event needs to be narratable as a disaster. He then compares each of these characteristics to the Anthropocene, saying it is not an ideal disaster. The Anthropocene feels too big and cannot be undone by somehow pulling the Holocene back over us. There is also not a decent warning, as the Anthropocene has already happened and is still in the process of happening. The bad news of this is that there’s not much we can do to “fix” the disaster. The only hope that we have is to look at people who have already “lived” in the era for a while to help teach us what to do. Those who have farmed in greater harmony with nature, saved biodiversity, reduced their reliance on fossil fuels, and created more localized economies are the people who should be teaching us all how to live in this new era. Although the article begins on a negative note, it ends with a source of hope.

“Age of the Sociopath” by Derrick Jensen was a very odd article, in my opinion. It was not your typical Anthropocene article by any means. He writes that the term is grossly misleading because it is not all man that is causing the change in the environment; it is “civilized humans.” Civilized humans are those people that are destroying land bases to make cities that benefit themselves only. He argues that the term Anthropocene is narcissistic in the sense that these civilized humans think so highly of themselves that they are naming an entire era after themselves and they are not taking into consideration any of the other cultures in the world. He thinks we should name this era after something that sounds much more horrific, since what these civilized humans are doing is horrific: a term that would mean “the age of the sociopath” seems to be much more fitting.

The first two articles I read seemed to have ideas that were more similar then the third. The first two gave an essence of hope, with wildlife being able to adapt to our cities and the presence of people in the era who already know how to live to save the environment. The third article, on the other hand, just rips apart what “civilized” humans have done to the environment and leaves the reader with a feeling of despair and hopelessness.

Amanda

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3 responses to “Cities, Disasters, and Sociopaths

  1. Amanda,
    Thank you for your input on articles that I DIDN’T read! Gives me an extra insight into others’ opinions on this so-called “Anthropocene”. It seems that you enjoyed the first report that you read, and judging by your summary, I would have liked it as well. It seems that everything published on the Anthropocene leads to the belief that “humans are destroying the earth”. However, it seems that “City Life” points out the beneficial impact that humans have brought by embracing this era. Even some parts of the environment are benefitting from the population, which seems to be promising. The first essay, “Misanthropocene?”, seems like another reading that gives light to the Anthropocene: it’s not ALL that bad to be entering into a new geological time. It’s what makes the world go ’round! The last essay you read, “Age of the Sociopath”, seems offending to me. The author’s approach on blaming civilized humans not only puts down the reader, but himself as well (because I am sure that he is one as well!). There is no need to play the “blame game” here; humans aren’t the only source of impact on the Anthropocene. Some environmental changes can be linked to sources such as food chain disruption causing certain animals to become extinct. Sociopaths? I think NOT! I agree with your opinions on each article; you have convinced me to go an read that last essay, just to see how off-putting this author really is!

    -Sara

  2. Amanda,

    Thank you as well for the readings that I did not choose and I really liked the first one. I agree with Sarah and you. The idea of the World becoming super populated and humans not respecting the environment can be found in several articles/essays. I also liked what Sarah said about the last author “offending” the readers. It is true that we all play a role in this society and we influence the environment whether we want it or not, that is just how society and civilization goes. We all are connected. I would like to also add something to your post: if the half of the World is living in cities right now, and in 2050 a 70% of the people on Earth is predicted to live in cities, what is going to happen in the future? It just seems really interesting to me how the construction of cities and people moving to the cities is going to impact humanity and the environment. Some of you might think that this is funny but I think that the planet come become a massive city like in “Coruscant” in Star Wars if construction of cities keeps increasing continuously.

    Luis

    • I’m not a Star Wars fan, so I don’t exactly follow your reference (sorry!), but I can see something like that happening. Obviously more and more people will not be able to keep living in a city that is staying the same size, so more and more of the rural/unpopulated areas are going to be turned into cities. This will cause wildlife to have even less room to survive and species will start dying off even more quickly than they are now. It’s quite sad to think about.

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