Our ancestors’ dystopia now

Indigenous conservation and the Anthropocene

Authored by: Kyle Powys Whyte

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138786745
eBook ISBN: 9781315766355
Adobe ISBN: 9781317660194


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The proposed Anthropocene epoch is understood geologically as a time when the collective actions of humans began influencing earth systems in marked, unprecedented ways. Some claim that the Anthropocene could have started in the year 1610 with “colonialism, global trade and coal” (Lewis and Maslin 177). Scientists and environmental ethicists often characterize futures in the Anthropocene as involving climate destabilization that will likely threaten the very existence of certain ecosystems, plants, and animals (Kolbert; Thompson and Bendik-Keymer; Vaidyanathan; Sandler). Ever-expanding human economic activities and consumer lifestyles are major drivers of climate destabilization through their dependence on burning fossil fuels and certain kinds of land-use such as deforestation. Some conservationists argue that we will inevitably have to learn to live with these changes, make careful decisions about conservation priorities, and, in some cases, learn to let go of certain ecosystems and species (Kareiva and Marvier). Yet others in the conservation community take an adamant position that these changes, especially extinctions, are morally dreadful (Vaidyanathan; Cafaro and Primack).

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