Rull, V. (2017), The “Anthropocene”: neglects, misconceptions, and possible futures, EMBO reports, doi: 10.15252/embr.201744231.
The term “Anthropocene” to describe anthropogenic global changes and their socio‐political and philosophical repercussions has gained popularity during the past years. Although it originated as a scientific term to designate the geologic epoch in which we live, characterized by the global impact of human activities on Earth, “Anthropocene” has adopted a variety of meanings in many other areas such as philosophy, sociology, communication, politics, or law. In philosophy, the “Anthropocene” has become an expression of modernity, an attack on Earth and the biosphere, or a biological imperative that is inherent to human existence. In a political context, it has been contemplated a logical consequence of global capitalism or the decoupling between environmental health and human welfare.Notwithstanding its frequent and widespread use, however, the appropriateness of the term and concept of the “Anthropocene” is under vibrant debate. This essay aims to clarify the issue and briefly discuss some points that are often ignored or go unnoticed. First, the concept of the “Anthropocene” is not a recent invention but was first proposed about one century and a half ago albeit under a different name. Second, its frequent and extended usage may create the misconception that the term is already a formal official unit of geologic time scale, but it is not. Third, the current definition of “Anthropocene” is a bet on the future and, as such, its meaning and eventual formalization depend on the future development of human affairs.