Facing the Anthropocene

This paper delves into four variables that shape human attitudes toward climate change, ecosystem-destroying forces and large-scale extinctions attributable to human action. These bio-evolutionarily-inflected aspects of culture and cognition -- timescale, ideology, desire, ethics -- are significant motivators that shape how individuals address the wicked problems that we collectively are faced with. Most policy-makers and leaders neither recognize nor address these factors when debating issues or seeking common ground for decision-making. Reluctance to take into account these aspects of human outlook and motivation in a systematic way is problematic. I parse some of the implications of these particular factors in facing the Anthropocene. Human temporal framing fluctuates between the biotemporal, the noötemporal, and the sociotemporal. Different time perspectives lead to different kinds of thinking about issues. Human timescales interplaying with ideologies tend to accentuate certain datasets, results, consequences, or priorities and to veil others. The evolutionarily programmed sensations of pleasure-seeking or hunger satisfaction can dominate human thought and reinforce particular temporal foci, while obscuring productive action pathways. The moral imperatives that one discerns in the order of the universe can, in their interplay with other factors, focus human attention in divergent ways. I argue that, as a species, we need to focus on these variables if we are to be successful in collectively facing the Anthropocene in a way that will ensure longer-term human survival and mark Homo sapiens sapiens as something other than a malignant evolutionary glitch.

Anthropocene, Time, Ideology, Desire, Ethics, Consensus, Evolution, Culture, Brain, Cognition

2020 Special Focus—Solidarity in the Digital Public Sphere: From Extremes to Common Ground?

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Robert Daniel
    • Assistant Professor, Saint Joseph's University
    • An enthusiastic teacher and lifelong learner, I am committed to the learning and achievements of students in my courses. Ethical thinking and principles of fairness inform my work. My concern for the long-term thriving of Homo sapiens often places me in conflict with the dominant culture of the United States and other industrialized nations. Or to put it in a more mundane style: Ph.D. in French (Vanderbilt University). Assistant Professor of Modern & Classical Languages at Saint Joseph's University. Publications include a book on Charles Baudelaire and François Villon and articles on French literature and on teaching strategies for promoting intercultural communicative competence. Scholarly interests include cognitive-science-informed theories of learning, human evolution through culture, and transdisciplinarity.