Questions on Hettinger’s “Valuing Naturalness in the ‘Anthropocene’: Now More than Ever”


1.         What is the “anthropocene?” Define it and explain the scientific suggestion it involves. What sort of human impacts on earth suggest we are in the “anthropocene?”

2.         How does Hettinger define “naturalness?” Is it an all or nothing concept?

3.         What problem or challenge does the “anthropocene” pose for those who value naturalness and believe environmentalism should importantly involve preserving and restoring it the autonomy of nature from humanity.

4.         Explain and evaluate the claim that “this is the earth we have created and so we need to manage it with love and intelligence.” What does Hettinger think about this statement?

5.         Explain and evaluate the claim that “the fundamental conditions of the biosphere are something that we collectively are responsible for.” What does Hettinger think about this statement?

6.         Describe various possible alternative metaphors about how humans should relate to the earth that are different from to the idea that we are “managers of this place.” What metaphor do you approve of and why?

7.         Why does Hettinger think naturalness becomes more, not less, important in the anthropocene?

8.         Explain and evaluate Hettinger’s response to this claim: “An interesting way to look at nature now in the Anthropocene is that nature is something we have created. There really is nothing around that has not been touched by us.” Do we live in a “world of our own making?”

9.         What are some of the ways that Hettinger thinks significant degrees of naturalness can return to a piece of nature even after it has been significantly manipulated by humans?

10.       What does Hettinger think is wrong with this argument: Because of climate change and other human disturbances, there really is no way to “go back” to an earlier pristine nature. Therefore our only option is to move forward into a thoroughly managed future where humans decide how nature will behave. Assume that Hettinger agrees with the first statement, why would he still reject the second?

11.       What does Hettinger think about the question of whether or not humans are natural/part of nature, or unnatural/separate from nature?

12.       What does Hettinger think about the idea that human flourishing will be achieved to the extent that humans have the freedom and ability to control nature?