Global Changes pp 141-151 | Cite as

Dwelling in the Anthropocene

  • Cristián SimonettiEmail author
Part of the Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment book series (ETHICSSCI, volume 46)


The Anthropocene—term proposed by the scientific community for the current geological epoch to signal humans as a leading geological force in earth history—has open intense debates across the sciences and humanities, in that the traditional gap between natural and social phenomena, occurring respectively at slow and fast temporal rates, have been questioned. Despite the enthusiasm, an irresolvable conceptual limitation marks the term. Irrespective of the very heterogeneity—human and other-than-human—that is currently at risk in this new epoch, the term often refers to a universal male human, sitting above nature. Humans are to be found simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, which risks diluting environmental responsiveness. This global dilemma resonates with the epistemic distance on which knowledge of the Anthropocene is constituted, which requires achieving a cosmic view on earth at the expense of ecological intimacy. Such cosmic view resonates, in turn, with the place the built environment affords humans, as ex-habitants of the earth. Yet, life—human or any other—is not lived on the exterior of a globe but in the Earth, nurtured by sensory attunements to the material transformations of an environment in constant becoming. Acknowledging the immanence of life, this chapter argues, requires a redefinition of what it means to be human. It is through this immanence that environmental responsiveness remains possible in a world in crisis. The chapter concludes by distinguishing responsibility from responsivity, two contrasting modes of engaging with environmental change, defined respectively as a retrospective act resulting from the achievement of epistemic distance and a forward-looking capacity related to knowing intimately the ongoing transformations of the environment.


Anthropocene Climate change Epistemic distance Intimate knowledge Environmental responsibility Environmental responsivity 



The research on which this article is based has been supported by the project Solid Fluids in the Anthropocene: A Transdisciplinary Inquiry into the Archaeological Anthropology of Materials (2015-19). The project, led in collaboration with Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen), is funded by the British Academy for the Humanities and the Social Sciences, under its International Partnership and Mobility Scheme, No. PM150104. The research has also been supported by the project Concrete Futures: An Inquiry into Modern Life in the Anthropocene with Materials (2015-18), funded by Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (FONDECYT), Chile, Nº 11150278. I am grateful to the British Academy and to FONDECYT for their support.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology Program, Department of Social SciencesPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile

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