By Diane Toomey | Yale Environment 360 | January 20, 2016
That we live in a new epoch defined by humankind’s unprecedented influence on the natural world is becoming less a matter of debate than a starting point for future action. But now that the Anthropocene phenomenon has been identified and labeled, how do we act in a way that begins to reverse our increasingly disruptive impacts on the planet’s fundamental natural systems?
Author Jedediah Purdy — who came to prominence nearly two decades ago when, as a young Yale law student, he wrote a book-length treatise about the corrosive impact of irony on our culture — maintains that these uncertain times require a new politics that address the urgent global issues now confronting the planet. In his latest book, After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, Purdy, 41, now a Duke University law professor, lays out his vision.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Purdy concedes that it’s difficult to discern the specifics of the “democratic Anthropocene” he’s calling for, but says it has some fundamental underpinnings. It is less beholden to Big Money. It wrestles with placing a moral value on climates and landscapes. It puts far more emphasis on our responsibility toward future generations. And in order to reverse the unfettered exploitation of nature, this new politics must move society toward greater self-restraint — never an easy sell. But, he says, politics remains our best hope: “We realize that the only world we get to live in is the world that we’ve made, and we only have one way of collectively pivoting the direction in which we’re taking that world — and that is political.”