Anthropocene, the ‘age of humans’ – this is the name experts suggest for calling the current geological epoch (Crutzen & Stoermer 2000, Ellis 2018). What triggered this drastic and provocative suggestion made by the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen is that humans have reshaped earth fundamentally since the last ice age ended. The consequences of a series of revolutionary changes in our way of life during the last centuries can be detected everywhere around the globe, and even in Earth’s strata. There is no single spot on Earth that does not carry some kind of imprint of human activities, from microplastic found even in the deepest ocean to strongly altered CO2 concentrations detected in ice cores of Antarctica.

The term Anthropocene has become a powerful narrative, forcing us to realize the significance of the changes that already have happened, globally. It carries with it, however, also a dangerous undertone. It emphasizes the notions of humans as powerful force, dominating Earth, and suggests the manifestation of an unbridgeable divide between nature and culture. And also: If nothing is pristine anyways, why should anyone bother conserving what is left?

When thinking about a good name for our initiative, we stumbled across the term Symbiocene. It has been coined in 2011 by Glen Albrecht. He uses this term to argue that human history should enter a new era that is characterized by harmonious interactions between humans and all other living beings. ‘Symbiosis’ implies living together for mutual benefit, and this new era should become a period in Earth history in which there is a deep interconnectedness of all life on Earth, including humans. Thanks to new technology and drastic changes in our way of living, “every element of human culture, habitat and technology will be able to be fully re-integrated back into life and its cycles and processes”. This way, the new geological layers forming on top of the layers signifying the Anthropocene, should show hardly any signs of human presence on Earth.

The term Symbiocene thus conveys exactly the ideas that triggered the foundation of our initiative: It suggests that there can be a future in which humans found more sustainable, and at the same time more rewarding, ways to interact with other living beings, and with their environment. For us, this is a vision of major importance. It could become a powerful image driving transformative change.

With Symbio(s)cene, we want to participate in developing the term Symbiocene into a rich and positive narrative. We want to collect the diverse inspiring ideas for a new culture, new technologies and new mindsets that already exist, and would like to provide a platform for interlinking and co-developing them.

Anthropocene, Symbiocene, Symbio(s)cene, Tina Heger, Oliver Szasz

Illustration © 2020 Symbio(s)cene


References:

Albrecht, G. A. (2015). Exiting the Anthropocene and entering the Symbiocene. Retrieved from https://glennaalbrecht.com/2015/12/17/exiting-the-anthropocene-and-entering-the-symbiocene/

Crutzen, P. J., & Stoermer, E. F. (2000). The ‘Anthropocene’. IGBP Newsletter, 41, 17-18. [link]

Ellis, E. C. (2018). Anthropocene. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. [link]

Image sources:

© Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash