Anthropocene, Gaia, Chthulucene: Foliar and dendroisotopic data support a more-than-human theory of the earth system

Authors: Brenden McNeil*, West Virginia University
Topics: Anthropocene, Biogeography, Global Change
Keywords: More than human, Anthropocene, Gaia, dendroisotope, nitrogen, carbon, tree, forest, foliar isotope
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marshall North, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Evidence for the Anthropocene is often based in biogeochemical measurements such as the Keeling curve of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide in the past century, or the ice core measurements of a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the 1500s, attributable to forest regrowth caused by the genocide of Native American populations. Certainly, such measurements evidence a powerful influence of our species on the earth system, but they just as certainly highlight how other species interact with us to affect the earth system. This interaction fundamentally questions a totalizing “human-dominated” view of the Anthropocene, or age of humans. In this presentation, I draw from my own involvement in biogeochemical research to highlight how biogeochemical data is better aligned with views of the earth system proposed by Latour, Haraway, and others developing more-than-human theory. Specifically, I cite how recent isotopic evidence of global terrestrial oligotrophication underscores Latour’s challenge for humans to “face Gaia”. I then use species-specific dendroisotopic data to support concepts of Gaia as an inter-dependent network of human and non-human actors. In finding this network to be consistent with Haraway’s Chthulucene vision of the earth system, I illustrate how her hopeful ideas of tentacular thinking challenge us to make kin with each tree, microbe, and politician that interactively can make the future earth system an Eden for all its human and non-human inhabitants.

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