Anthropocene and Technosphere

Knowledge in and of the Anthropocene

Cooperation Partners: 

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, ICS Anthropocene Working Group, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, MAx Planck Institute for Chemistry, Fridtjof Nansen Institute

A central research topic of Department I is the role of long-term developments and dissemination of the knowledge used by humankind to exploit natural resources and to create new, artificial environments. A further central topic is the effects this exploitation has on the well being of the planet. Capturing the profound and long-lasting impact of human activities on the Earth’s system, the Anthropocene—the proposed new geological epoch of humankind—is a powerful concept for investigating these deep changes. Likewise, the technosphere is an emergent concept for describing the system that has been built up to harvest, metabolize and also squander energy and materials. A globe-spanning mesh of technological, ecological and social systems of circulation, this system has achieved systemic parity with other terrestrial spheres like the biosphere or hydrosphere.

Both concepts allow different historical horizons to be banded together, in particular, longue durée and accelerated environmental and socio-epistemic changes, but also the production of goods and scientific knowledge in core areas and peripheries, as well as changing epistemologies. The interaction between environments, both ancient and modern, and knowledge production has been conceptualized as a process of co-evolution, including also the interaction between knowledge economies and accelerated industrialization. At the epistemic level, the history of the geo- and climate sciences itself provides insights into the interaction between modeling and observation as a crucial means of understanding the Earth as an evolving system. Research on these strands is complemented by and brought into the wider scholarly community within the Anthropocene Curriculum and Technosphere projects.