Is There a Way out of Anthropocene?

Pasi Heikkurinen, Toni Ruuska, Marko Ulvila, Kristoffer Bernhard Wilén

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


The findings on the human dominance and exploitation of the non-human world have been known already for decades, and thus the debate on the Anthropocene is largely about illuminating the old problems with more robust scientific evidence. However, the Anthropocene is new in the sense that it highlights the severity of the anthropogenic ecological and sociocultural crises on whole the planet affecting the living conditions of all earthbound beings.

The natural science behind the Anthropocene has emphasised the so-called extra-human species level of analysis, where humans are positioned vis-à-vis rest of ‘nature’, as well as the inter-species level of analysis, where species are studied in relation to other species. On the other hand, social sciences and humanities have complemented the Anthropocene discourse by stressing the importance of an intra-human species level of analysis. In the study of the ‘social’, the main focus has been on examining the causes and consequences of the Anthropocene within the human species so that differences in terms of regions, cultures and social classes become taken into account. The latter level of analysis critically shows that humans have not caused the destruction equally, but that the high-consuming (i.e. the rich and affluent) ones are particularly blameworthy for the on-going violence towards other species and the non-human world, which calls for a more fine-tuned allocation of blame and responsibilities for the Anthropocene.

In this paper it is also pointed out that it is crucial for any enquiry on the Anthropocene to ask what is needed to emancipate the earth and its beings from exploitation? As an imminent answer to this questions the paper explores the foundations to social, economic and cultural revolution, which abolishes the constraints of capitalism and meanwhile, establishes a new relationship between individuals and society, and between the people and nature. The paper suggests that this revolution has the best chance of happening if ecological and sustainability questions are re-politicised. This includes, for example, going to the root causes of the current ecological destruction: capitalism as way of organising life-worlds, and the harmful relationships with more-than-human nature.

In short, we conclude in this paper that there is a need to exit both the human-dominated geological era of the Anthropocene, as well as the universalising Anthropocene narrative. Both of the ‘anthropocenes’, the discursive and the material, are inherently violent and should hence be abandoned. Considering the material dimension in particular, and in order to leave the Anthropocene behind, the destructive power of capitalism must be acknowledged and an alternative way to organise economic activities are to be found. Moreover, the organisation of human activities cannot no longer build on pluto-, techno-, and anthropocentric premises but must encompass a new ethos towards the non-human world. To imagine an era of peaceful coexistence to follow the Anthropocene, the paper builds on critical theory, ecological Marxism, and Nordic eco-philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2nd Peaceful Coexistence Colloquium - Reimagining Ethics and Politics of Space for the Anthropocene 6.-9.6.2017
Number of pages2
Place of PublicationPyhätunturi
PublisherUniversity of Lapland
Publication date06.06.2017
Publication statusPublished - 06.06.2017
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings


  • 999 Others
  • Anthropocene
  • eco-philosophy
  • ecological marxism


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