Tag Archives: week2

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.