Facing Climate Change and Human Extinction

The documentary Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival presents a philosopher for a planet in crisis.



The dangerous bacteria called humanity is isolated in the far backwaters of the Universe and infests its host (Planet Earth) and expands and consumes until the host dies. Unfortunately, Earth's Flora and Fauna are part of the process and will also be consumed and die. I recognized this hideous truth at age 18 while on LSD and thus refused to procreate as programmed. Have a nice day.


Human culture dedicated to unrelenting growth is far older than capitalism, older than agriculture, older than even Homo Sapiens.

Homo Erectus grew in Africa until it filled the continent up some 2 million years ago, and then its continued growth filled all of Eurasia. Homo Sapiens did the same, growing to fill all of Africa some 200,000 years ago, and then grew to fill Eurasia, and then Australia and North America and Polynesia, and then to keep growing through increased population density.

Geological eons, eras, epochs, and ages are delineated by the measurable changes they leave behind, written in stone. These measurable changes are commonly in the fossils embedded in the rock; boundaries where large numbers of representative organisms appear and/or disappear from one layer of rock to the next. The boundaries between these layers represent geological events-- comparatively instantaneous changes to the earth, most often attributed to environmental changes, in turn due to a variety of interesting causes (meteorites, flood basalts, the evolution of the first cyanobacteria).

We already have a Geological name for the age in which Human activity is visible in the rock-- it is the Holocene. The boundary between this age and the previous, the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, is marked by the extinction of megafauna (very large mammals and reptiles) on all continents, and the most widely accepted explanation for this mass extinction is the growth of Homo Sapiens across the face of the planet.

But how, then, will Geologists of the far future refer to the present day, when it is long gone?

For starters, they will not refer to the burning of the world's fossil fuels as an era or age, it will not be even a hair-thin rock layer a scant few tens of thousands of years deep. It will happen far too fast for that, in a few hundred years, less than an eyeblink in Deep Time. It will be referred to as an event, e.g. "End Quaternary Carbon-Oxidation Event," not as a geological period; it will not be given a name ending in "-cene".

Which still leaves the problem of what to call the era that will follow our ongoing geological event, and persist long after it is over. This is not for us to decide. It will be named according to features that characterize it, and we don't know what those features will be. In particular, it is entirely possible that the rocks left behind by that future age will be nearly empty of human artifacts and fossils, and instead full of all sorts of other interesting things, in which case "anthro-" would be an entirely nonsensical prefix.