The Human Imprint: Nature, Time, and Law in the Anthropocene


Human history has been entwined with the history of nature since the earliest accounts of creation. The advent of the environmental sciences secularized those histories, postulating new causal and consequential connections between nature and humanity. The Anthropocene is but the latest of the narratives that tie the laws of the Earth to the activities of nature’s most interventionist offspring: the human species. In this talk, I will trace the modern scientific narratives of human-nature relationships through the parallel lens of environmental law. I will ask what difference the concept of the Anthropocene—in particular, its embrace of the geologic timescale—makes to our notions of responsibility toward a planet that we not only inhabit but also consume and transform through human enterprise.

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Boltzmannstraße 22
Berlin 14195