This plenary symposium explores the nature of radical environmental transformation. Environmental change has always been a part of human history and as such has invited both cultural and social responses. Yet has the very nature of change changed, or can previous adaptations serve as a guide? Does the rise of the “Anthropocene” necessitate a radical break from conceptualizations of environmental change?
In 1788, the Edinburgh geologist James Hutton published A Theory of the Earth, a work that became one of the enduring classics of the Scottish Enlightenment. Hutton’s radical thesis was that the Earth’s form had not remained unchanged since the seven days of Creation, but was in a constant process of change. His conclusion that "The result of our present enquiry is that we find no vestige of a beginning,–no prospect of an end" foreshadowed some of the shock waves caused by Darwin’s On the Origin of Species decades later. This symposium explores such moments of enlightenment, moments of wonder, moments when the fabric of our understandings of the nature of being becomes unravelled and undone. Drawing on recent debates surrounding the rise of the “Anthropocene”, we seek to explore how “theories of the Earth” are themselves historically-constituted forms subject to the vicissitudes of change and flux. The participants in this symposium will be Nigel Clark of Lancaster University and Rupert Stasch of University of California-San Diego.