Framing the Anthropocene: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Anthropocene has become a key theme in contemporary speculations about the meaning of the present and the possibilities for the future. While ecomodernists argue that current circumstances present opportunities and possibilities for a thriving future for humanity, a ‘good Anthropocene’, critics suggest that the future will be bad for at least most of humanity as we accelerate the sixth extinction event on the planet. The geopolitics of all this, which may be very ugly in coming decades, requires much further elucidation of the common Anthropocene tropes currently in circulation. As with the classic Western movie, in the search for the gold neither ‘the good’ nor ‘the bad’ have the whole story; ‘the ugly’ will probably turn out to be decisive in determining how things play out. How the Anthropocene is interpreted, and who gets to invoke which framing of the new human age, matters greatly both for the planet and for particular parts of humanity. All of which is now a key theme in the discussions of political ecology that requires careful evaluation of both how geology has recently become so important in global politics, and in discussions of humanity’s future, and how scholars from various disciplines might now usefully contribute to the discussion.