Marris, Kareiva, Mascaro, and Ellis

Hope in the Age of Man


1.      Some human impacts

         a.      75% of ice-free land “bent to our will”

         b.      Half world rivers dammed

         c.      Spread non-native (exotics) all over globe

2.      Some enviros think Anthropocene is a disaster by definition as all human changes are degradation of pristine Eden

         a.      Straw man? Do enviros really think of nature as pristine Eden?

         b.      One might think that human influence on nature decreases its wildness/naturalness and thus decreases its value in virtue of that fact

                   i.       But those influence might also increase its value in other dimensions (biodiversity, for example)

         c.      Anthropocene is a disaster because the kind and extent of human changes/influences

                   i.       Minor and benign humans influences on nature do not create “The Anthropocene”

3.      Notion of virgin, pristine wilderness has been systematically dismantled by ecology and archeology

         a.      Clearly the notion makes perfect sense for earth before humans evolved.....

         b.      What is important about this claim is that it rightfully rejects the idea that native peoples (e.g., Native Americans) did not substantially influence North American ecology and so it was a “pristine, untouched wilderness” when Europeans arrived

                   i.       Native Americans used fire, built roads, had acriculture, buffalo jumps.

4.      Distinguish between

         a.      (1) nowhere on earth is natural (false)

         b.      (2) nowhere on earth is pristine (absolutely untouched by human influence) (true

5.      That we liven in the Anthropocene does not mean we inhabit an ecological hell

         a.      Yes: there is still spectacular nature and biodiversity and ecosystems services for humans on earth

         b.      No: Mass extinction, Global warming, collapse of fisheries, ocean acidification, deforestation–these defining features of the Anthropocene sound like “ecological hell”

6.      In protecting nature, we need to do more than hold back tide of change and build higher/stronger fences around “relatively intact ecosystems”

         a.      True; protecting wilderness or preserving classic ecosystems are not only important env goals

7.      One goal is to create “new glories” that contain a heavy hand of man

         a.      “We can restore once magnificent ecosystems like Yellowstone and Gulf of Mexico to new glories–but glories that still contain a heavy hand of man

         b.      How is restoring wolves to Yellowstone to “create new glories” rather than restoring old ones?

         c.      Same question about restoring Gulf of Mexico after BP oil disaster wrecked it

         d.      Clearly these places won’t be exactly the same as before

         e.      And they won’t be “pristine” (and haven’t been for a long time”

         f.       But Yellowstone, at least, has been darn natural–manifests a high degree of naturalness and with the wolf back is arguable getting close to the ecosystem that once was there

         g.      How different does a restored ecosystem have to be for it to be a “new glory” rather than a restored old one?

8.      “Anthropocene does not represent failure of environmentalism”

         a.      “It is the stage on which a new, more positive and forward looking environmentalism can be built”

         b.      This suggests the Anthropocene represents a failure of traditional environmentalism of protecting wild nature from the human onslaught

9.      This is the earth we have created”

         a.      Well if this is true, I’d say it is the failure of environmentalism

10.    “We have a duty to protect and manage earth with love and intelligence

         a.      “Earth is not ruined. It is beautiful still, and can be even more beautiful if we work together and care for it”

         b.      But it can also become more beautiful if we leave it alone and let nature recover and rewild itself

         c.      A duty to manage earth? Is this a proper role for humans?

Questions on Marris et al. “Hope in the Age of Man”


1.      Is the Anthropocene a disaster? Is it a defeat for environmentalism? Is it an “ecological hell?” What do Marris and her colleagues think? What do you think?

2.      What is wrong with the notion of virgin, pristine wilderness according to Marris and colleagues?

3.      Is an important goal of environmentalism to “create new glories that contain heavy hand of man?” Give an example

4.      Evaluate this claim: “This is the earth we have created.”

5.      Do humans have a duty to manage earth?