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Security in the Anthropocene: Reflections on Safety and Care



The belief that »Nature« exists as a blank, stable stage upon which humans act out tragic performances of international relations is no longer tenable. In a world defined by human action, we must reorient our understanding of ourselves, of our environment, and our security. This book considers how decentred and reflexive approaches to security are required to cope with the Anthropocene – the Human Age. Drawing from various disciplines, this bold reinterpretation explores the possibilities for understanding and preparing a future that will look vastly different than the past. The book asks to dig deeper into what it means to be human and secure in an age of ecological exception. The pdf below is an extract from the book. - See more at:
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Cameron Harrington, Clifford Shearing
Security in the Anthropocene
Reflections on Safety and Care
August 2017, 196 p., Hardcover, 79,99 , ISBN 978-3-8376-3337-5
The belief that »Nature« exists as a blank, stable stage upon which humans act out
tragic performances of international relations is no longer tenable. In a world defined
by human action, we must reorient our understanding of ourselves, of our environ-
ment, and our security.
This book considers how decentred and reflexive approaches to security are required to
cope with the Anthropocene – the Human Age. Drawing from various disciplines, this
bold reinterpretation explores the possibilities for understanding and preparing a fu-
ture that will look vastly different than the past. The book asks to dig deeper into what
it means to be human and secure in an age of ecological exception.
Cameron Harrington (Dr.) is the National Research Foundation Global Change and
Sustainability Postdoctoral Fellow in the Global Risk Governance Programme at the
University of Cape Town.
Clifford Shearing (Prof.) holds positions at the Universities of Cape Town, Griffith,
and Montreal.
For further information:
© 2017 transcript Verlag, Bielefeld
2017-07-26 12-28-18 --- Projekt: transcript.anzeigen / Dokument: FAX ID 0327467428262630|(S. 1- 2) VOR3337.p 467428262638
Note on Authorship | 7
Preface | 9
Chapter One: Security in the Anthropocene | 13
Bringing deep time into security | 19
The Pleistocene | 20
The Holocene | 23
The Anthropocene | 26
Security in the Anthropocene | 31
Chapter Two: More-Than-Human Worlds | 37
Lineages | 41
The return of the Great Man | 45
Posthuman security | 49
Safety politics in the posthuman age | 56
Conclusion | 60
Chapter Three: Postnatural Security | 63
Creating nature | 66
Nature as purity | 68
Nature as instrumental value | 70
Nature as threat | 74
Niche construction and postnatural security | 78
Conclusion | 83
Chapter Four: The Horizon of Holocene Security | 85
Confronting the new Human Age: securitization and the horizon of
Holocene Security | 88
Reading Schmitt in the Anthropocene | 94
The dawn of Anthropocene security | 97
Conclusion | 105
Chapter Five: Towards a Security of Care in the Anthropocene | 109
The impossible past | 109
Can security be careful? | 117
Care and the Anthropocene | 123
The limits of care | 126
Risk and uncertainty | 127
Towards a micro-politics of care | 131
Conclusion | 139
Chapter Six: Conclusions | 141
Constructing the World | 142
Defenses and new directions | 145
Omissions and critiques | 145
Future directions | 151
References | 157
Register | 189
This was not an easy book to write, as readers will probably guess. Its
subject matter is rarely uplifting, and is often dispiriting. Given our
backgrounds in the disciplines of international relations and criminology
we are often required to think through seemingly tragic, locked-in
security dilemmas; ones that seldom deal with the brighter sides of
humanity. The Anthropocene is the most daunting security challenge
either of us have encountered. We have done our best to make sense of
our current predicament without giving in to cynicism or despair, though
some days this seemed impossible to do. There are no answers to be found
within the following pages. Our hope is that our contribution will provoke
debate, discussion, and further consideration of the multifaceted security
challenges we face.
The genesis of this book came in 2014. Cameron Harrington was
working on a postdoctoral project on water security at the University of
Cape Town under the supervision of Cliord Shearing. Over discussion
we realized that, independent of the other, we had both been thinking
deeply about Anthropocene questions. It was decided soon thereafter to
begin forming our dierent thoughts into a cohesive manuscript. The
journey has taken over two years and over that time we have become
indebted to many.
Our ideas have been shaped and reformed through numerous
discussions, presentations, workshops, and seminars in the exceptional
surrounds of Cape Town. We are grateful for the lively, interdisciplinary
community at the University of Cape Town, particularly our colleagues
based in the Global Risk Governance programme (GRG), the Faculty
of Law, Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), and the Centre of
Criminology (now the Institute for Safety Governance and Criminology).
Thanks to Elaine Atkins and Francisca Zimmerman in particular for
10 Security in the Anthropocene
their exceptional research and administrative support. Emma Lecavalier
and Melani van der Merwe deserve credit for contributing to a lively
intellectual atmosphere in the GRG oces. Further thanks go as well to
our colleagues at the University of Bergen, including Jan Froestad and
ThorØivindJensen who have listened, critiqued, and improved many of
our ideas. At the end of 2015 Cameron took up a postdoctoral fellowship,
under Benoit Dupont’s supervision, at the Centre International de
Criminologie Comparée (CICC) at the University of Montreal. Thanks
to Samuel Tanner for his sponsorship and support of the project and to
Élodie Roy for helping to administer the fellowship. CICC’s innovative and
cutting-edge security research environment made for a welcoming and
intellectually invigorating environment.
At various points, and in dierent locales, we have shared portions of
this book, learning a great deal along the way. We have presented parts of
the book at the University of Cape Town, the London School of Economics,
the University of Montreal, and the University of Ottawa. Thank you to
the participants, discussants, and chairs at various conferences, including
the 2015 and 2016 International Studies Association Conferences in
New Orleans, and Atlanta, and the 2015 Millennium Journal Annual
Conference in London, UK. We have benefited from numerous
discussions with inspiring scholars. In particular thanks to Ken Booth,
John Braithwaite, Anthony Burke, Barry Buzan, Simon Dalby, Scott
Hamilton, Jonna Nyman, and Mark Salter for reading and commenting
on draft chapters, related articles or presentations. Further thanks to the
anonymous peer reviewers who commented upon and critiqued various
aspects of this manuscript. We are also indebted to Ricky Röntsch for her
excellent editing assistance.
Finally, we must also single out and thank Jakob Horstmann, our
editor at Transcript-Verlag, for his enthusiasm for this project and for his
unending patience as many of our overly optimistic deadlines came and
A few of the ideas in this book appear in other academic outlets.
See Shearing, Cliord. (2015). “Criminology and the Anthropocene.”
In: Criminology and Criminal Justice 15/3, pp. 255-269; Harrington,
Cameron. (2016). “The Ends of the World: International Relations and
the Anthropocene.” In: Millennium: Journal of International Studies 44/3,
pp. 478-498; Harrington, Cameron. (Forthcoming 2017). “Posthuman
Security and Care in the Anthropocene.” In: Clara Eroukhmano and
Preface 11
Matt Harker (eds), Posthumanism. E-International Relations Publishing.
Readers familiar with these articles will find overlap throughout this book.
The book would not have been possible without funding support
from the South Africa-Norway Research Cooperation (SANCOOP) Fund,
the National Research Foundation of South Africa along with Grith
University and the University of Cape Town. Any opinion, findings and
conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are ours alone and the
agencies do not accept any liability in regard thereto.
Cameron Harrington
Cliord Shearing
Toronto and Cape Town, January 2017.
Chapter One: Security in the Anthropocene
“No, no, you are not t hinking; you are just being logical.”
(Niels Bohr quoted in Frisch 1979:95)
What does it mean to live and die in a world that is ending? What happens
to our ideas and practices of security when much of what we have taken
for granted—including the requirements for our safety and our very
survival—now ceases to be?
Security references a state of protection—where threats are absent,
insignificant, or managed. It is the condition of feeling safe. A state of
being without care, of being carefree, because all is well (Hamilton 2013:
32). Yet, if we are to take seriously all of the warning signs that tell us that
humanity is careening headfirst into a new world that oers no platform
of stability, no guarantees of safety or survival, what then? These are the
questions that face us as we move through, the 21st century. They are the
questions we consider in this book.
For almost all of our entire existence we humans have been “in-
significant animals with no more impact on [our] environment than
gorillas, fireflies or jellyfish” (Harari 2014: 11). This insignificance
produced profound eects on our security ideas. This insignificance has
granted us the “safe operating spaces” (Rockström 2009) we have enjoyed
for millennia. It has allowed us to be carefree and careless about the earth
and the safety it has provided.
We are no longer insignificant. This, in Naomi Klein‘s words,“ changes
everything”. We have become, through labor and technique, powerful
‘geological agents’ (Chakrabarty 2009) who are actively shaping the Earth
system in ways that seriously undermine our safe spaces. There has been,
in Pat O’Malley’s phrase, a “collapse of nature into society” (O’Malley
forthcoming). This has happened before and with dire consequences but
never on this sca le. In 2015, for the first time in human history atmospheric
14 Security in the Anthropocene
carbon dioxide (CO2) level s reached 400 par ts per million (PPM) on average
across the whole year. This is a remarkable increase when compared to
the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that existed prior to the Industrial
Revolution, which stood at around 278 PPM. This can be traced largely to
human activities: a growing population; intensified agricultural practices;
increase in land use and deforestation; industrialization and energy use
from fossil sources. The increase in CO2 (along with other greenhouse
gases like methane and nitrous oxide) is of course the main driver behind
global warming. By the end of 2015 the warming influence of greenhouse
gases had increased by 37 per cent since 1990 (Dahlman 2016). While
estimates vary, the prevailing wisdom is that feedback from the Earth
system will increase the rate of climate change in the near and long-term
future. As future climate change impacts drought, it will weaken the
land carbon sink and amplify atmospheric CO2 growth. By century’s end
the world will probably be warmer by 2-4 degrees Celsius in spite of the
global pledge at the 2015 Conference of the Parties to the United Nations
Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC)commonly
referred to as COP 21—in Paris to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees
Celsius (hereafter °C) (UNFCCC 2015). The election of Donald Trump, an
avowed climate change-denier, in November 2016 as President of the US,
with an economy that produces roughly 16 per cent of the world’s global
greenhouse gas emissions (Boden et al 2015), signals to us that 1.5 degrees
seems to be an increasingly unlikely outcome, while 4 degrees, and its
devastating consequences for planetary life, has become more likely.
Trying to construct a political response for a cumulative ser ies of events
over the course of a century, let alone a millennium, seems impossible.
The diculty is magnified by the uncertainty, unpredictability, and
the inequality of climate change. As the world slowly and inadequately
prepares for a world that will be 2°C warmer by the end of the century,
we are simultaneously tasked with preparing for a world that could very
likely be 4°C warmer, which would equal the same temperature change
that occurred between the ice age and the Holocene. If we hit 4°C, a
number of interrelated catastrophes are expected: the tropics will become
uninh abitable; the meltin g of the Greenland and Antarct ic ice sheets will be
guaranteed, together with a subsequent rising of the oceans by upwards of
70 meters (National Snow and Ice Data Center 2015; World Meteorological
Organization 2016: 24); there is likely to be a vast diminishment of crop
yields, threatening food production and human health; there will ensue
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 15
a massive loss of biodiversity; an increase in the spread of vector-borne
diseases; and overall water scarcity. Even if governments of the world are
successful at limiting warming to between 2-3°C, the long-term impacts
will be severe. Over the next two millennia, 20 per cent of the world’s
population will be forced to move from coasts, which will be swallowed
up by the sea. Cities including New York, Calcutta, Shanghai, and Rio de
Janeiro are likely to be under water (Clark et al. 2016). Responding to these
scenarios seems beyond the realm of our security thinking. Our future
will demand the impossible.
It has been claimed that we are now witnessing the onset of a mass
extinction event, the first in 56 million years (Kolbert 2014). While
there have been previous mass extinctions—science fiction stories
notwithstanding—we have not, until now, always considered this as a
possibility for us. The end of the world. Not through divine intervention,
or nuclear annihilation (which still haunts us), but through the slow,
insidious act ions of our everyday. We are finding it ha rd to acknowledge this
change in our circumstances and to change our ways. This predicament
invites criminology and international relations, two disciplines that focus
their attention on security, to consider what security might mean, and how
it might be practiced, within our new realities. Finding a way of doing this
will not be easy for either discipline. Both areas of enquiry have developed
within the shadow of Emile Durkheim’s radical separation of nature and
society as two sui generis domains, where a collapse of one into the other
has been by definition impossible. And yet this is what has happened.
1 | See the special t heme issue, edite d by New et al. of Philosophical Transactions
of the Royal Societ y (2011), entitled “Four Degrees and Beyond: Potential for a
Global Temperature Increase of Four Degrees and its Implications.”
2 | For many, international relations as a discipline came of age during the Cold
War, when the world existed under the threat of nuclear war and total annihilation.
The apocalyptic visions of nuclear attacks and the prospect s of a resulting
‘nuclear winter’ is the closest we have come in our disciplines to dealing with
the material and emotional components of global extinction. The Anthropocene
offers a similarly catastrophic threat landscape as a nuclear winter, but its vision
of extinction—slow, latent, barely discerned, and yet violently effective—exists in
stark contrast to the spectacular immediacy of nuclear war and deterrence logics.
The Anthropocene extinction isn’t solved with a telephone hotline. See Colebrook
(2014: 40).
16 Security in the Anthropocene
How this challenge is conceived, and met, within these disciplines will
define their contributions to our emerging age and its unique insecurities.
For most classical security theorists—from Thucydides to Hobbes,
Clauesewitz to Morgenthau—human social worlds have been, at root,
an anarchic realm that has guaranteed a constant level of insecurity that
could only be temporarily assuaged. How this ‘social’ insecurity has
been, and may be moderated, has been at the center of the concerns of
criminology and international relations. Within both disciplines, humans
have been conceived as, in John Gray’s (2002) phase, “rapacious primates”
who constantly endanger each other in a Hobbesian “war of all against
all”. Dangers lurk around every corner. Security, a constantly shifting
phantom, can be realized only to the extent that humans can reign in their
innate, violent, tendencies stoked by self-interest. This story of (in)security
has been posited, critiqued, and repeated ad nauseam for centuries. It
has formed the basis for the thinking about intrastate societal security
(criminology) and interstate national security (international relations). It
has been used to understand sovereign power and authority as source of
security. Fear of the barbarism inherent in the state of nature has been
thought of as strong enough that, “whatever the sovereign does cannot be
as bad as the condition of unrestrained competition” (Walker 1997: 67). By
large measure, our contemporary theories and practices of security adhere
to these established assumptions.
But as is becoming clearer, strange and fantastic things are happening;
a consequence of our failure to shift our sensibilities and practices as
we have moved from being insignificant to significant animals. Rising
oceans, record temperatures, ocean gyres of plastic garbage, climate-
altering oil spills and methane leaks—the Earth and its inhabitants are
defying expectations. The remarkable transformation of the Earth system
into a wholly new geologic epoch is unthinkable and nonsensical for
contemporary approaches to security—approaches that have viewed our
planet as a stable system that operates independently of humans. Our
unquestioned confidence in the security provided by nature, regardless
of what we did, has been and is being shattered. We have discovered the
unthinkable: how we act matters not just for us but for Earth itself. We
are, to our surprise, deeply and irrevocably entangled. And there is no
going back because the world of our ancestors has vanished. What once
was can never again be. The scale and speed of shifts in the Earth system
is unprecedented, unpredictable, uncertain and profoundly dangerous for
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 17
human life, for our fellow earthlings, and for our institutions. We have no
choice but to alter our pursuit of a secure coexistence. Gaia, to use James
Lovelock’s term for our living Earth, has spoken forcefully and eloquently.
Security, both as a practice and as an analytical category, is more
complex than we ever imagined. As a consequence we are compelled
to revisit our core ideas and reorient our practices as we make sense
of the planet’s inter-permeable systems of humans, animals, things,
and processes. The idea of an ‘Earth system’—the planet’s interlocked,
interacting physical, chemical, and biological processes—has been absent
from almost all security approaches. Our purely anthropocentric framings
are no longer viable—they were a luxury that cannot be maintained. If
our metamorphosis teaches us anything, it is that we are entangled in a
complex set of assemblages—one set of interlinked things among many.
The name that has been proposed for our new geological age that we are
entering is the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans—an age of humans as
consequential, interlinked things that impact not only themselves but the
systems of which they, like all other things, are a part.
By most metrics, individual security and well-being have risen
rapidly as we have accessed, and used, fossil fuels. Over the past 25
years, two billion people have been lifted out of low development levels
(UN Development Programme 2015). Extending back even further, life
expectancy has risen dramatically over the last few centuries, with rapid
improvements occurring in developing countries in recent decades. Today,
the countries with the lowest life expectancy (Swaziland, Lesotho, Central
African Republic) are better o today than any country in the year 1820
(van Zanden et al. 2014). Many human risks have been drastically reduced.
Sidestepping for the moment persistent violence and rising inequality, the
Anthropocene has arrived at a time when humans have never had it so
good. A comforting calm before the coming storm.
There is no question that for all earthlings the Anthropocene is an age
of new and monumental risks that threatens to rapidly undo the security
gains of the past several centuries. The impacts of human behavior extend
into deep time and have buried themselves in Earth’s crust. Exactly what
this means, and will mean, may never be fully known. What is known is
that the continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions, together with a host
of other, often related, environmental eects, promise a future (across
short-, medium- , and long-term) that is unlike anything earthlings have
18 Security in the Anthropocene
ever experienced. This will be a future where humans are metaphysically
and literally at the center of the world.
The term Anthropocene oers a clear vision of the source of these
developments—anthropos. That we have indeed entered the Age of the
Anthropocene is revealed when unravelling this claim. The human has
radically seeped into every corner. Every discipline—from philosophy to
atmospheric chemistry, from visual arts to stratigraphy—is aected. And
yet surprisingly, the concept has yet to take hold in the two disciplines that
have foregrounded security studies.
It is true that a small subset of international relations scholars and
a growing number of ‘green’ criminologists are producing insightful
work on the Anthropocene and its security implications. But these
have contributed largely as a tentative beginning. The Anthropocene is
still overwhelmingly absent from security studies. This is all the more
curious given the fact that according to the most comprehensive global
survey of international relations scholars—the 2014 Teaching, Research,
and International Policy (TRIP) survey—the most important foreign
policy issue the world will face over the next ten years is global climate
change (TRIP 2015). The same poll however revealed that only about two
per cent of the nearly 4000 scholars surveyed listed the international/
global environment as their main area of research (Teaching Research and
International Policy 2014). Both disciplines, with the exceptions of small
islands of new thinking, remain virtually unchanged. The signals are
clear; security is still deeply rooted in Holocene-bred understandings of
security. The reasons for this are varied and complex and will be examined
throughout t his book. For established secur ity studies, wedded as t hey have
been to anthropocentrism and visions of geography as political territory,
the Anthropocene is ontologically and epistemologically weird. Exploring
how secur ity is related to animals, n itrogen, microbes, deep time, and nic he
constructions of environmental impacts that include all ‘earthlings’—as
the Anthropocene demands—is an altogether foreign task. A task that
requires the disciplinary divides to transcend the established social-
nature divide. It will also undoubtedly require the enrolling of a variety of
3 | A small sampling would include inter national relations scholar s such as Simon
Dalby, Frank Biermann, and Audra Mitchell, and criminologists such as Avril
Brisman, Michael Lynch, Nigel South and Rob White.
4 | The lack of traction in the niche field of ‘green criminology’ illustrates this.
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 19
emerging technologies that can detect, measure, simulate and model on
scales that are too vast and complex to be transposed and communicated
via the cognition of humans alone (Weart 2010; Weart 2003). We cannot
study climate change, forecast future global pandemics and so on
without nonhuman technologies/intelligences, including computer-based
modelling on supercomputers (Chun 2011; Thomas 2014).
The hybrid nature of the Anthropocene requires the pluralization of
security and of security studies. Our survival and well-being are bound
together wit h others– across species, t ime, and objects. This enta nglement,
so fundamental to the Anthropocene, is a mystery to security studies. A
principal goal of this book is to shed some light on this mystery.
Bri n g i ng de e p t i m e into s ec ur it y
The term Anthropocene conveys something profound, though it has taken
a while to realize it. Introduced in 2000 as a seemingly benign neologism
by the atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen (a Nobel Laureate) and geologist
Eugene Stoermer (Crutzen/Stoermer 2000: 17-18), the term, and the ideas
it embodies, have grown into a worldwide phenomenon. It expresses the
idea that humans are now fundamentally altering the planet, including its
long-term geological processes, at an increasing rate. While it has not been
accepted by the ocial bureaucratic body—the International Commission
on Stratigraphy—the Anthropocene is now widely accepted as a suitable
moniker for a modern age beset by climate change. The idea that humans
can and do change the earth is not new. While Stoermer first used the
term in the 1980s, the intellectual history of the idea it seeks to capture
stretches far back in time. Yet, while the concept is outwardly intuitive, it
5 | The recognition that humans have the power to control the Ear th system had
been acknowledged as early as 1873 by the It alian geologist Antonio Stoppani
who spoke of the “anthropozoic era”, describing it as, “a new telluric force which in
power and universality may be compared to the greater forces of ear th” (Stoppani
quoted in Crutzen 2002: 23). A few decades later, in 1926, V.I. Vernadsky and
Teilhard de Chardin used the term “noösphere,” the “world of thought” to describe
how human brain-power shapes the environment and its future (Crut zen 2002:
20 Security in the Anthropocene
holds vast implications. Humans have forever altered the planet; they are
historical geo-forces.
Declaring the advent of a new geological age is not simply a matter of
measuring the hard facts of geological changes. While these geological
changes are likely to be found in measurements of extinction impacts or
nuclear fallout, we must also recognize that the Anthropocene requires
a massive cognitive shift to incorporate relationality and entanglement.
If humans are geologic agents the traditional divide between people and
an external world of things, which Durkheim’s sociological thinking
epitomizes, dissolves. We are found everywhere, with everything. Our
traces are found in forests, glaciers, skies, oceans and everywhere in
between. We have altered, and are altering, the seasons and the DNA of
life-giving matter. We have ended worlds (eg, through extinctions) and
have begun new ones, eg. populations of jellyfish ‘bloom’ thanks to high
levels of agricultural waste being dumped into the ocean, which leads to
the widespread growth of algae and zooplankton (Purcell et al. 2007).
Figuring out how to think and act along geological temporal scales
is a new task for security studies. Cultivating an ethos that holds us as
relational beings in which there is no nature, no ‘out there’, is a crucial
task for making sense of security in the Anthropocene.
How then, is the Anthropocene any dierent from what has come
before? It is self-evident that it diers in terms of the absolute and relative
impacts of humans upon the Earth. As a species, we are wholly dominant,
able to shape Earth to meet almost our every need. Understanding how we
got here requires us to shift our temporal and spatial scales, bringing deep
time, and things big and small (from the cosmological to the quantum)
into relation with our emerging security predicaments. We now turn to a
brief examination of security through previous geological ages, focusing
on the entanglement of nature and society.
the p l e i s t o c e ne
The Pleistocene (from about 2.5 million years ago to 11.700 years ago),
when we find Earth’s last major ice age, is characterized by the repeated
glaciations that overtook the planet over the span of millions of years. It
was during the Pleistocene when hominids first emerged and evolved
enough to organize themselves in small, tribal societies, displaying a
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 21
unique level of intelligence lacking in other primate species. As these
emerging humans developed they also spread themselves across most
parts of the world, particularly during the milder interglacial periods,
which left new, open landscapes available for settlement. Archaeological
evidence in deep time is scarce and patchy, but the available data suggests
that a gradual migration and colonization of ecosystems, by prehistoric
hunter-gatherers had occurred in almost all parts of the world, including
the Americas and Australia by the late Pleistocene.
Thinking about the Pleistocene means more than reiterating the story
of painfu lly slow and methodical evolution of humans a nd their technology
towards greater and greater sophistication. This story, repeated by many
traditional archaeological studies, views human evolution primarily as
a function of environmental pressures; human evolution emerges as “a
story of chimpanzees entering an environmentally driven conveyor belt
at one end and emerging at the other as Homo sapiens.” (Coward et al.
2015: xxvii). Recent developments, beginning in the 1980s, have seen
Palaeolithic archaeology reorient its traditional study of early humans
away from a closed scientific positivism in order to better incorporate
complex entanglement through a focus on human relationships with other
beings and things. This ‘post-processual’ turn in archaeology, ‘a return to
things’, exemplified in the works of Ian Hodder (2012), Michael Shanks
and Christopher Tilley (1992), and Clive Gamble (2007), counters cleaner
teleological views of human prehistory that has long been the accepted
and unquestioned narrative.
These authors foreground the social and cognitive aspects of early
human life instead of focusing on how environmental pressures cue
corresponding changes in human physiology and behavior. They create
an archaeology-of-movement, which studies evolutionary changes as
a dynamic process of interaction between people as particular kinds
of things with other things. The so-called ‘creative explosion’ is used
to denote the separation of humans from other hominids. This ‘event
began somewhere between 100.000-70.000 years ago in parts of Africa,
when humans first demonstrated symbolic thought—understood as the
ability to identify and craft representations of things. Anthropologists
dier in their explanations for the creative explosion: they typically label
it as a result of genetic mutation, the culmination of gradual processes of
development, or something that rose and fell with climatic disruptions
(Wilson 2012). No matter the explanations, modern human behavior
22 Security in the Anthropocene
is correlated with the technical and cognitive ability to express emotive
thought via the use of objects—for example, the tools used to etch
paintings and patterns onto cave walls and stone fragments. This turn
in archaeology shows how humans have always been fully entangled and
related with other organisms, technologies, and metaphors. This links all
of human history to a broader history of the universe and its physical and
chemical processes (Godson 2014). It also means ‘peopling’ the deep past,
emphasizing the microscales at which interpersonal and embodied social
practice helps materialize personhood (Dobres 2005: 265). This practice
explains change on an archaeological timescale by emphasizing the
hybridity of prehistorical culture. It means looking at the messy mixtures
of materiality and symbolism that goes into making sense of human
action. These analyses, harbingers of what the Anthropocene requires,
seek to link all of human social history to a broader, deeper history of
the universe and its physical and chemical processes (Godson 2014). They
guide us to engage the messy mixtures of materiality and symbolism of
human life (Dobres 2005: 265). Neolithic houses, masks, and kinship
networks are used as examples of social technologies that point to the
relatedness between people and material culture. Entanglements are
revealed as processes that both enable and entrap (Hodder 2014).
For these scholars the earliest houses of the Pleistocene period are
not simply dwellings developed by primitive humans to protect against
the natural elements (though this is, of course, one use); they are also
‘bodies’—Latour’s ‘actants’. According to Clive Gamble, the entanglement
of humans, other beings, materials, culture, and symbolism complicates
our stories of prehistoric security. For him,
[h]ouses are the ultimate container of people, livestock, tools and memories.
Houses are carved, wall-papered, added-to and repaired. They are quintessential
biographical objects, growing, changing and eventually dying. They are culturally
relative. One person’s Golden Hall is another’s thatched barn. And almost
coincidentally, they keep out the wind and rain. (Gamble 2007: 98)
Even the most basic form of personal security—constructing necessary
shelter to protect one’s life—becomes a relational endeavor, infused with
symbolism, technology, materials, social status, and culture. Our security
structures are hybrid entities, composed of multiple, interacting and cross-
cutting networks of living beings and things. Gamble further explains:
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 23
In other words, people, manufactured objects and things such as trees are not
distinct categories based on biology or the possession of life. Rocks, trees and
animals are all examples of material culture and as such can be par t of relational
networks, as well as relating to each other independently of people. For example,
a hen-house is built by people. But the hens that live in it have a relation to those
surroundings which conditions their actions when the chicken farmer is far away.
Orwel l’s politic al satire Animal Far m depends, once Farmer J ones is expelled, upon
the developing relationship bet ween the pigs and the farmhouse and the other
animals and their barn: a good example of how, with hybrid culture, the rational
distinctions governing relationships quickly break down. What emerges in turn is
a network of relationships between people, things and objects or, more simply,
networks of material culture. (Gamble 2007: 96) (Internal references omitted)
Even in our deepest history, human security has been correlated to the
security of other beings, things, places, and processes. These ideas, and
others like them, prefigure the sorts of analyses that the Anthropocene
requires: analyses in which humans are recognized as things, aecting
and being aected by other things in a single realm that dissolves the
natural-social dyad—a dyad that lies at the heart of the carelessness that
has been so instrumental in giving rise to the Anthropocene.
the holocene
The Holocene, Greek for “wholly new,” was not formally pronounced
until 1967 by the US Geological Survey. It reflects a period of both glacial
advance and retreat, with an overall sea-level rise of just a bit more than
35 meters (Wanner et al. 2008). It is also an age with variable warming
and cooling trends (depending on the timescale and the hemisphere
of measurement), due to orbital changes, solar radiation and volcanic
eruptions (Summerhayes/Charman 2015; Wanner et al. 2015). The
Holocene has been characterized by relative climate stability. It was during
this period that the continents dried out and our contemporary landscape
was formed. Changes in geological terms during the Holocene have been
negligible. For example, over the entirety of the Holocene (12.000 years)
the continents have shifted less than a kilometer. As Jedediah Purdy (2015)
puts it, “a reasonably fit person could cover the scale of planetary change
in a brisk eight-minute walk.”
24 Security in the Anthropocene
Almost all of our ideas about human history and the development
of civilization have occurred in the Holocene. Of course it does matter
that the global human population at the start of the Holocene was
around two million (Goldewijk et al. 2010). By most estimates, overall
population numbers remained at this level until the beginning of the
agricultural revolution, some 5000 years ago. The emergence of complex
human societies during the Holocene was made possible by its relative
climate stability. This provided for large areas of human habitation and
the creation of increasingly agricultural systems and higher population
densities. While the Pleistocene was characterized by hunter-gatherer
societies with low population density, the Holocene saw the onset and the
rapid development of agricultural and cooking technologies. This in turn
led to the emergence of a series of civilizations, including those present on
the planet today. According to Richerson and Boyd:
Intensified subsistence and higher population densities multiply the number of
people and volume of commodities that societies can mobilize for economic and
political purposes. Expanded exchange allows societies to exploit an expanded
division of labor. Larger armies are possible to deal with external threats or to
coerce neighbors. Expanding the number of people sharing a common language
and customs will accelerate the spread of useful ideas. Given appropriate
institutions, the denser societies made possible by agriculture can realize
considerable returns to better exploitation of the potential of cooperation,
coordination, and the division of labor. (Richerson/Boyd 20 01: 213)
The fundamental form of security, for humans as for all species, is
biophysical well-being, which depends on the ability to extract what is
needed for survival from the resources of the planet. Take for instance
the role of fire—crucial to the emergence of cooking—which enabled
less energy to be spent on digestion and more on brain development
(Harari 2014). As humans flourished in the period of climatic stability,
a population bomb exploded, though the nearly-exponential growth of
global populations did not start until very recently. In fact, the global
human population has quadrupled over the last 100 years, soaring to over
7 billion, with global GDP growing twenty-fold during this time (European
Environment Agency 2015). Current estimates conclude that by the end
of the 21st century the Earth will be home to more than 11 billion people
(United Nations Department of Economic and Social Aairs, Population
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 25
Division 2015). As our numbers have grown, so have our need to extract
more and more resources to feed ourselves. A spiral of ‘take, make and
waste’ ensued, enabled by climatic stability that supported bio-physical
systems and provided humans with safe operating spaces. The irony of
the Anthropocene is that, as advances in technology enabled ever greater
‘taking’ and ‘wasting’ to support our ‘making’, the bio-physical systems
upon which this all depended have been undermined—a killing of the
goose that lays the golden egg on a planetary scale.
The crucial piece in this story has been a succession of energy
revolutions that began with the mastering of fire (Pyne 2001; Clark/
Yuso 2014). This burning expanded enormously with the discovery of
fossil fuels, these being eectively energy batteries that had been charged
by the sun over millennia (Hartmann 1999). As we learned how to
burn to extract more and make more, our ‘taking, making and wasting
expanded through industrialization (Rifkin 2011). A crucial feature of
these processes was the generation of electricity—an enormously flexible
form of energy that can be produced from a variety of energy sources—on
a massive scale, as we burnt coal to “end the night,” drive machines and,
most importantly, create a new space—cyber and digital. It is the waste of
industrialization, which has brought with it much well-being for humans
that more than anything has shaped the shift from the relatively benign
conditions of the Holocene to the conditions that are emerging with the
Anthropocene. Herein lies the profound irony that Ulrich Beck (1992)
identified with his risk society. It is the very activities that have allowed
for our flourishing during the Holocene that might lead to a sixth mass
extinction on Earth.
The Holocene may be over but its artefacts—its social systems, its
mindsets and its 7 billion humans—still remain embedded in the Earth
in the early 21st century. The mind-set that prevails over Holocene Earth
resources, along with its institutions, has been built upon a view of the
‘natural’ world as separate from the domain of humans. These resources
are viewed abstractly, with no power to interact with humans and vice
versa. This has meant that the security of Earth systems, environmental
security or, the security that nature provides, was never of concern, and
indeed has scarcely been recognized. We humans have long regarded
the planet as a sterile stage upon which we act, but do not impact in any
6 | See, for example, Rifkin (2014) and Crosby (2006).
26 Security in the Anthropocene
way. This illusion, which pervades almost all corners of western thought,
has had profound consequences for our ideas about security, which are
fundamentally anthropocentric and absent of ecological thought. The
Holocene mind-set—that nature is self-evidently ‘out there’ and is a
dutiful provider to human societies—lingers, despite physical evidence
suggesting the world has moved on. The Holocene world is “the only
state of the Earth system that we know for sure can support contemporary
society” (Steen et al 2011a: 739). Trying to break free of the Holocene
world—physically, ontologically, and institutionally—is a fundamentally
risky proposition, but we may not have a choice. Thus we are forced to
take the defining Holocene artefacts and use them as the bootstraps we
humans will have to draw upon as we endeavor to remake ourselves for a
new age.
the An t h r op ocene
In contrast to the earlier geologic periods of the Pleistocene and Holocene,
the Anthropocene, as we have seen, inverts the view of humans as
passive bystanders who take advantage of, respond to, but do not shape
Earth systems. The cumulative actions of humans, this relatively young
species, have fundamentally transformed the Earth (Steen et al. 2007;
2011a; 2011b). From climate change to nuclear fallout to biodiversity loss
to ocean acidification, the marks of the human on the Earth are indelible
and permanent. They will remain long after the last of us turns out the
lights (Dodds 2008).
The Anthropocene coincides with an increasing awareness of systems
thinking and the burgeoning literature on Earth System Science (Steen
et al. 2004). A broad consensus now exists that—taken together—
human activities have injected new biophysical factors into the biosphere,
modifying the physical parameters that determine the functioning of
major Earth systems (Dalby 2014). The world known to us through climatic
history is over. We have left the interglacial state of the Holocene and are
7 | Even John Stuar t Mill, who presciently warned against the environmental
costs of the unlimited, progressive growth of the economy, still felt that the role
of nature was to satisfy human desires for security and happiness; see especially
Book IV, Chapter VI of Mill (1885).
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 27
pushing the Earth into terra incognita. While climate change attracts the
majority of attention, other environmental transformations are underway
simultaneously that also threaten the “safe operating space for humanity
(Rockström et al. 2009; Steen et al. 2015a). The Ear th is rapidly becoming
less biologically diverse, less forested, much warmer, wetter, and stormier
(Steen et al. 2007). As Steen et al. (2015b: 12) observe:
The atmospheric concentrations of the three greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide,
nitrous oxide and methane—are now well above the maximum obser ved at any
time during the Holocene […]. There is no evidence of a significant decrease in
stratospheric ozone any time earlier in the Holocene. Nor is there any evidence
that human impact on the marine biosphere, as measured by global tonnage
of marine fish capture, has been any where near the late 20th-century level at
any time earlier in the Holocene. The nitrogen cycle has been massively altered
over the past century […]. Ocean carbonate chemistry is likely changing faster
than at any other time in the last 300 million years and biodiversity loss may be
approaching mass extinction rates.
Despite these remarkable developments, the term Anthropocene has
generated significant debate on whether there is enough geological
evidence to fully warrant declaring a shift from Holocene to Anthropocene
(Autin/Holbrook 2012: 60-61; Fahrenkam-Uppenbrink 2015: 87-88). The
International Commission on Stratigraphy, established an Anthropocene
Working Group (AWG) that looked for ‘golden spikes’ in the geological
record that could lead to an ocial declaration of the Anthropocene
as a distinct geological epoch. In mid-2016 the AWG concluded that
stratigraphic ‘signatures’ that were either entirely novel or outside of the
normal variable ranges for the Holocene period had been identified. These
signatures convincingly bore the mark of human action and it seemed as
though they were accelerating. They wrote:
The driving human forces responsible for many of the anthropogenic signatures
are a product of the three linked force multipliers: accelerated technological
development, rapid growth of the human population, and increased consumption
8 | Part of the debate revolves around whether it is possible to find the ‘golden
spike’—the physical evidence buried in rocks and sediment that demonstrate a
major change in the earth system—required for the naming of a new geologic age.
28 Security in the Anthropocene
of resources. These have combined to result in increased use of metals and
minerals, fossil fuels, and agricultural fer tilizers and increased transformation of
land and nearshore marine ecosystems for human use. The net effect has been a
loss of natural biomes to agriculture, cities, roads, and other human constructs
and the replacement of wild animals and plants by domesticated species to meet
growing demands for food. This increase in consumption of natural resources is
closely linked to the growth of the human population. (Waters et al. 2016: 1)
Unsurprisingly the process and debate over declaring the Anthropocene
has grown highly politicized. There is a technical diculty in accurately
finding geological markers and stratigraphers do not take amendments to
the Geological Time Scale lightly. It took over 50 years for the Geological
Congress to settle on the Holocene (Chakrabarty 2009: 210). Besides that,
the search for the Anthropocene reflects deeply political questions about
who is responsible for its emergence and what type of human impact
should be considered the most profound. Many thoughtful commentaries
have argued that the term Anthropocene, by implicating ‘humanity’ as
a singular force of nature, masks deep divisions and inequalities of sex,
race, geography, and class. The Anthropocene was not created equally; it
was made by a specific subset of humans, namely those on the frontlines
of modernization: white, wealthy, males of European heritage. For these
reasons, a variety of new labels have been proposed as a way to more
accurately reflect the specific characteristics of the human age, including
“the Capitalocene” (Moore 2015; Haraway 2015), the “Eurocene” (Grove
2015), the “Technocene” (Hornborg 2015), the “Anthrobscene” (Parikka
2015), the “Oliganthropocene” (Gemenne 2015), the “Manthropocene”
(Raworth 2015). Each of these terms carries dierent implicit diagnoses
and thus compels dierent sets of responses (Baskin 2015).
Beyond the question of who is responsible, the social and geological
critiques of the Anthropocene have become enmeshed in the significant
debate on when it started. Most studies emphasize one of three markers
for the starting date: 1) the earliest detectable human impacts; 2) the
earliest widespread impacts; and 3) historic events such as the Industrial
Revolution or the mid-20th century’s ‘Great Acceleration’. However, in
9 | The Great Acceleration’ is the neologism (intentionally echoing Karl Polyani’s
‘Great Transformation’) coined by Will Stef fen and others (2015b), which emerged
out of their efforts to build a more systematic picture of the human-driven
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 29
2015, the climate scientists Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin published an
article in Nature that rejected those proposals on the basis that they are not
derived from a globally synchronous marker. Cumulatively the markers
certainly aect the Earth system, but none of those options represent a
singu lar marker in the global geolog ical record (on an annual/decadal scale)
(Lewis/Maslin 2015). Indeed, the first two options equate the existence of
humans with the Anthropocene—humanity has remade the Earth simply
by being human. This drains the term of its political potential. It belies
the fact that Crutzen created the term as a way to highlight the damaging
choices that humans have made to get us to this point.
Lewis and Maslin settle on two main contenders for the Anthropocene
starting date. Both reflect global political processes. The first option
is found in the impacts from the Great Acceleration, which refers in
geological terms to the unprecedented and major expansions in human
populations, together with the creation of new, long-lasting materials
from minerals to plastics to persistent organic pollutants and inorganic
compounds (Lewis/Maslin 2015: 176). One of the principle event horizon
markers for the ‘Great Acceleration’ is the global fallout from nuclear
bomb tests. These tests began in 1945 and steadily increased through
atmospheric testing in the 1950s and early 1960s, until the partial test
ban treaty came into eect in 1963. Since then, nuclear tests have fallen
precipitously. Based on measurements of radionuclide fallout captured by
tree rings and glacier ice, 1964 has been identified as being the peak year
of radioactivity and thus has been proposed as the year the Anthropocene
began. Even though radiocarbon has a relatively short (in geological
terms) half-life of 5730 years, the mark of humans upon the sediment
changes to the Earth system. As they mapped the imprints of human enterprise
they realized that from about 1950 onwards, human effects upon the earth
have reached a speed and volume unprecedented in the history of humankind.
The Great Acceleration encompasses near-synchronous stratigraphic markers
including not just radionuclides, but aluminum metal, fly ash par ticles, persistent
organic pollutant s, a variety of biological indicators, and the proliferation of
plastic (Zalasiewicz et al. 2016).
10 | The AWG, which holds a measure of authorit y given its role in convincing
the official International Commission on Stratigraphy to formally declare the
Anthropocene, has also concluded that the mid-twentieth centur y (somewhere
between 1945-1964) should be designated as the star t date.
30 Security in the Anthropocene
of the earth will remain for many, many generations. So too, the AWG
has determined that the mid-20th century should mark the onset of
the Anthropocene, but based upon the rise in consumption patterns
and industrialization, the proliferation of new anthropogenic materials
appearing in sediments (including plastics, and concrete), and the spikes
in fallout radionuclides and particulates from fossil fuel consumption
(Zalasiewicz et al. 2015).
The second option, and ultimately the one Lewis and Maslin settle
on, is the 1610 ‘Orbis Spike’, which reflects the low point in a decades
long dip in atmospheric CO2 , caused by the death of upwards of 61 million
people in the Americas from colonial violence and disease brought upon
Indigenous inhabitants. The annihilation of the Indigenous population
caused a significant decline in farming and other human activities that
reduced pre-industrial CO2 levels to their lowest in 2000 years. This
global event also contains within it other auxiliary markers. It represents
the emergence of the first global trading network, which connected Asia,
Africa, Europe, and the Americas and allowed for the mixing of biota,
known as the Colombian exchange. The globalization of foodstus,
including corn, maize, livestock, and wheat, as well as the accidental
mixing of other foreign, non-invasive/invasive species of flora and fauna
radically reorganized life on Earth without geological precedent (Lewis/
Maslin 2015: 174). In this radical reading, the Anthropocene emerges
with the discovery of the New World. It therefore implicates genocide and
colonial violence as a physical stamp on and beneath the face of the earth.
As the authors write:
The Orbis spike implies that colonialism, global trade and coal brought about the
Anthropocene. Broadly, this highlight s social concerns, particularly the unequal
power relationships between different groups of people, economic grow th, the
impacts of globalized trade, and our current reliance on fossil fuels. (Ibid: 177)
Indeed, both events—the Orbis hypothesis and the zenith of nuclear
testing—represent the capacity of humans to enact violence, war,
and destruction. Both are perhaps examples of humans simply being
“rapacious primates” (Gray 2002), deeply enmeshed with social and
material actants. In this reading, the Anthropocene entangles political,
economic, cultural, technological and material processes, bridging oft-
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 31
divided critical discourses of social science and humanities with the
natural sciences.
Given these and other reasons, it is discomforting, to put it mildly, that
the disciplines of international relations and criminology maintain their
silence on the Anthropocene. This marginalizes these security disciplines
at a time of growing fascination with the Anthropocene as both a popular
concept and a scientific concept. Hundreds of articles are written per
year on the Anthropocene, from a diverse range of disciplines. It has
generated enough publicity and rigorous debate to become something
even more than a buzzword; it can now be seen as a true signifier.
The performative act of declaring the Anthropocene works to instill or
reinforce new understandings of the interactions between humans and
the Earth system. While the idea that humans and nature interact is not
new, there is something dierent about the Anthropocene; it ushers in,
and reflects, a realization that the dynamic scale and impact of human
activities is world-making. While the idea of humans making worlds has
long been recognized within the social sciences, the worlds being made
have never included the planet itself—this has always been conceived of
as immune. The eects of this expansion of world-making are profound;
both in terms of the physical earth changes and in terms of the deep
philosophical challenges that are raised in a world where distinctions
between humans and things are not simply being blurred, but erased.
And in this new world, states of normalcy and exception are increasingly
indistinguishable. This has enormous consequences for our perceptions
of security.
sec ur i t y in the A n thr o p o cene
Despite significant advancements in well-being, this is an age of profound
crisis, not triumph. One need only ask a resident of t he Pacific island nation
of Kiribati, or the town of Kivalina, Alaska, whose communities will soon
be swallowed by rising seas, about the risks that accompany the technical
ability of humans to appropriate the benefits of nature—risks that, as
Ulrich Beck (1992) has argued, we have created, but are outstripping our
ability to resolve. These communities are one of the many casualties of
32 Security in the Anthropocene
Ours is, and will be, a perilous age. We are going to live for some
time in this age that we have done so much to make. How might we live?
There is much evidence at present to suggest that we will simply continue
down the track of carelessness that has gotten us to where we are. For
many this is inevitable for both genetic and institutional reasons and
thus cause for mourning—a “requiem for a species” according to Clive
Hamilton (2010). We are locked into who we are and have become. Our
safe spaces are gone, never to return. Instead of learning to live, we must
“learn how to die” (Scranton 2015). For others, particularly the optimists
of the ‘eco-modernist’ movement, our present age, while perilous, is also
an age of opportunity that we can grasp. Our aptitudes for innovation
and technology can lead us to co-design a new world that transcends the
nature/culture divide. Humans have a historical propensity for resilience
and adaptation in the face of adversity. Today and into the future we should
ramp up the use of nanotechnology and geoengineering to craft a ‘good
Anthropocene’ (Asafu-Adjaye et al. 2015).
Lying between these stances is a position that accepts what is, what
our Holocene sensibility of sustained carelessness has produced, and
then seeks to construct a sensibility, out of which action flows (Shearing/
Ericson 1991) that is appropriate for Anthropocene security—an ethos of
care. Its premise is simply that, whether as a species our security is won
or lost, or whether as a species we live or die, we have an opportunity
to act collectively and virtuously as co-inhabitants of the Anthropocene.
Discovering what it means to be co-inhabitants of the Anthropocene is
the challenge that Bruno Latour invites us to take when he advocates that
we must learn to “love our monsters” and “care for our technologies as
we do our children” (Latour 2011a) Fortunately, these are bootstraps upon
which we can pull. We know much about how to care and we have done
so in many ways. But can we construct visions of care that become part
of new logics of security for the Anthropocene? Can we extend caring
relations to others beside humans? Perhaps most importantly, can we
do so in time? For Rif kin (2009), the question is how might we extend
empathy so as to create a “global consciousness” that is as pervasive, and
as embedded, as the consciousness of carelessness that has pervaded the
Holocene. It is to these possibilities of care and carefulness that this book
The book follows a general trajectory that reexamines humans, nature,
and security in light of the Anthropocene age. The next chapter, “More-
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 33
Than-Human Worlds” argues that one of the primary ways that we move
security out of the Holocene is through a prolonged investigation of the
anthropos in security, both as subject and object. It is clear that our ideas
of security have been overwhelmingly anthropocentric, which is to be
expected. All the (dis)orders of security (critical, traditional, postcolonial,
etc) have been built upon ontological conceptions of the human individual.
By creating order through a demarcated inside and outside, security
studies have relied upon and perpetuated the dualist understanding
that sets humans apart from other species, nature, and each other
(Cudworth/Hobden 2011). As the chapter will show, viewing humans as
intrinsically linked (though not bound) to other modes of being, including
organisms, animals, machines, feedback systems, etc, can open up a new
understanding of power, sovereignty, responsibility and harm, as well as
new, immanent possibilities for action.
Chapter three, “Postnatural Security” begins with the question: what is
natural in security? Or, how are ‘nature’ and the ‘planet’ conceived of and
used within security disciplines as well as by states and other international
actors? We argue that traditional security studies and policies have relied
upon an understanding of the natural environment that confirms and
abides a homogenous vision of security, whereby the state is the referent
object of protection, and the natural environment therefore exists to be
managed, controlled, exploited, and preserved at the behest of perceived
national and community interests. Conversely it argues that conceptions
of the Earth, and nature have conditioned security practice itself—from
depictions of natural resource abundance, to control of water, to the
natural physical barriers to invasion accorded to some states.
In Chapter four, “The Horizon of Holocene Security” we ask: without
a coherent conception of nature or the human, what does security mean
in the Anthropocene? This chapter tries to answer this by showing how,
despite the end of the Cartesian dualism inherent to Holocene security,
security remains an absolutely central principle in our lives. However,
we argue that the Schmittian-inspired politics of the exception, upon
which securitization theory rests, are increasingly challenged by shifts in
the Earth system that point toward a future where ecological exception
becomes the norm. The eects of this may be for an increase in state-
level securitizations of environmental issues. Or, it may also present new
opportunities for theoretical developments and policy-oriented action
that considers the normative implications of ecological exception within
34 Security in the Anthropocene
security and challenge nonhuman understandings of security. That is,
the growing awareness of complex system-level linkages may help avoid
the dualistic logic of securitization where politics exists as either ‘normal’
or ‘exceptional’, actors are either ‘friend’ or ‘enemy’, and life is either
‘secure’ or ‘insecure’.
Chapter five, “Towards a Security of Care in the Anthropocene,”
begins by asking: what kind of security should we have in the
Anthropocene? We quickly conclude that we cannot oer a blueprint
or a political plan of action for righting the ship. The Anthropocene
does not allow it. So with what are we left? Nihilism? Despair? Perhaps
these have always been quintessential buzzwords of security but they
will not get us very far. We instead propose that to live and die in the
Anthropocene requires us to probe an abstract and transcendent ethos of
security based on the notion of care. Care compels us to act responsibly in
relation to others, without relying upon restricted forms of global justice
or moral cosmopolitanism that are troubled by Anthropocene logics. Care
represents a promising, if also problematic, approach to security in the
Anthropocene, the age of ‘shared threat’. It will not save us necessarily
(perhaps we are irredeemable) but it can show us that that there exist
possibilities of response in a troubled time. Our last chapter, fittingly
titled “Conclusions” oers a summary of our positions and puts forth
a defense against anticipated criticisms. We finish by briefly outlining
potential new directions for further research.
If we reduce security to its purest form—the reduction of harm—or
what Jeremy Waldron (2010: 117) refers to as the “pure safety question”,
then the Anthropocene concept presents some real problems. The
scale and scope of global environmental change forces us to confront a
torrent of interlinked insecurities with causes that are too complex and
emergent to fully comprehend, coming from sources that are at once
nonhuman and distinctly human-led. Likewise, these insecurities are
temporally distant, cross-species, and often locked in. Even when security
is understood outside of its ideal form, whether through traditional or
critical approaches, we are still left with hegemonic discourses that are
infused with anthropocentrism and linear forms of causality. Security in
the Anthropocene oers no promises. It exists neither as protection nor
prevention. The realities of the Anthropocene signal to us the urgent need
to research and theorize new, diverse understandings of security that can
help us cope with expanded forms of existential risk. Sometimes too we
Chapter One: Securit y in the Anthropocene 35
need to marry these new approaches with very old ways of understanding
the world that have, for various reasons, been suppressed. The chapters
that follow should be read as necessary provocations for an age that defies
easy classification yet demands that we look directly upon it; that we
return its gaze.
... Most of this critical peace, conflict, and security research draws on Earth System Sciences descriptions, which locate the planet on a trajectory towards a "Hothouse Earth" climate (see Steffen et al., 2018). Moreover, those approaches frequently claim to offer a paradigm shift, which is then also applied to the necessity of redefining the very meaning and politics of security (Dalby, 2020;Hardt, 2021;Harrington & Shearing, 2017;Lövbrand et al., 2021). ...
... It also includes the Earth System Sciences literature and the emerging literature on international relations and security in the Anthropocene, which distinguishes between Holocene and Anthropocene thinking (Cudworth & Hobden, 2011). While Holocene thinking presupposes a clear distinction between humans and nature, Anthropocene thinking challenges the humannature dualism and eventually implies a re-definition of the meaning of security in such a way as to overcome the focus on conflict in favor of a re-assessment of the central values that need to be secured in new situations of survival and ethics (see Hardt, 2018Hardt, , 2021Harrington & Shearing, 2017). ...
Full-text available
In the context of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the debate on whether climate change should be included and how has been ongoing since 2007. This article contributes to existing research on this problem by expounding a three-fold analysis. First, it assesses the conceptual approach to the climate-security nexus from the joint statement of 10 UNSC member states in 2020. Second, it critically exposes the confusion of different climate-security conceptions and uncovers shared assumptions of the UNSC-member states in 2020 by comparing their different positions, which makes a soon-to-come agreement likely. Third, it critically evaluates whether the proposal to include climate change into the UNSC will lead to a transformative change of the institution, of the meaning of security, and on how this would correspond to the existential threats outlined in the Anthropocene context. The theoretical framework of analysis draws on critical security studies. It takes as its empirical basis the primary sources of the UNSC debate of 2020 and is also informed by the secondary literature on climate and security and the Earth System Sciences descriptions of the state of the planet.
... Most of this critical peace, conflict, and security research draws on Earth System Sciences descriptions, which locate the planet on a trajectory towards a "Hothouse Earth" climate (see Steffen et al., 2018). Moreover, those approaches frequently claim to offer a paradigm shift, which is then also applied to the necessity of redefining the very meaning and politics of security (Dalby, 2020;Hardt, 2021;Harrington & Shearing, 2017;Lövbrand et al., 2021). ...
... It also includes the Earth System Sciences literature and the emerging literature on international relations and security in the Anthropocene, which distinguishes between Holocene and Anthropocene thinking (Cudworth & Hobden, 2011). While Holocene thinking presupposes a clear distinction between humans and nature, Anthropocene thinking challenges the humannature dualism and eventually implies a re-definition of the meaning of security in such a way as to overcome the focus on conflict in favor of a re-assessment of the central values that need to be secured in new situations of survival and ethics (see Hardt, 2018Hardt, , 2021Harrington & Shearing, 2017). ...
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In the context of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the debate on whether climate change should be included and how has been ongoing since 2007. This article contributes to existing research on this problem by expounding a threefold analysis. First, it assesses the conceptual approach to the climate-security nexus from the joint statement of 10 UNSC member states in 2020. Second, it critically exposes the confusion of different climate-security conceptions and uncovers shared assumptions of the UNSC-member states in 2020 by comparing their different positions, which makes a soon-to-come agreement likely. Third, it critically evaluates whether the proposal to include climate change into the UNSC will lead to a transformative change of the institution, of the meaning of security, and on how this would correspond to the existential threats outlined in the Anthropocene context. The theoretical framework of analysis draws on critical security studies. It takes as its empirical basis the primary sources of the UNSC debate of 2020 and is also informed by the secondary literature on climate and security and the Earth System Sciences descriptions of the state of the planet.
... De manera similar, un enfoque "mundano" de la seguridad enfatiza que amenazas como la guerra, los grandes accidentes industriales o el colapso ecológico no afectan a los humanos de manera aislada, sino que ponen en peligro los mundos comunes co-constituidos por humanos y diversos seres no humanos (Mitchell, 2014, p. 6). Harrington y Shearing (2017), por su parte, sostienen que la seguridad en el Antropoceno debería orientarse hacia una "ética del cuidado" (De La Bellacasa, 2017). Los cuidados, según ellos, son capaces de enfatizar un tipo de pensamiento profundamente relacional, apropiado para abordar patrones de interacciones y respuestas en curso y desconocidos en la tierra. ...
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The Anthropocene as a new epoch brings into question the traditional modes of conceptualising International Relations. We believe that it does this by forcing students and practitioners of International Relations to think through how the discipline works as a set of ideas and practices, in fact, as a way of understanding the nature of problems and policymaking per se. As a discipline, International Relations is particularly sensitive to the questioning of the problematics of human exceptionalism, rationalist problem-solving and liberal modernist imaginaries of progress, which have shaped the agendas of international peace, development and democracy. Beyond the dark days of the Cold War, when International Relations was essentially a strategic exercise of Realpolitik, the discipline has staked a lot on the basis that Enlightenment liberalism is the universal panacea to human ills and that irrational structures or agencies can be civilised or tamed to further the interests of humanity, both in national or global regimes of good governance and the rule of law. These dreams of liberal universal solutions appear to have run aground in the Anthropocene as the last decade has marked a shift away from universal, modernist or ‘linear’ understandings of power and agency. In a world, construed as more complex, contingent and relational and replete with crises and unpredicted ‘tipping points’, traditional assumptions are up-ended and unintended consequences seem more relevant than ‘good intentions’. Concomitantly, the methodological focus has switched away from understanding the essence of entities and towards privileging the analysis of relations, networks and contexts. Key to this has been debates focused around climate change and global warming which explicitly cast policy problems not as external threats to the ‘good life’ (that requires securing) but as instead questioning the starting assumptions of separations between inside/ outside, humanity/ nature, solutions/ problems and referents/ threats. This elicits a very different way of thinking. If natural processes can no longer be separated from the historical impact of human development and are no longer merely the backdrop to a purely human drama of domestic and international political contestation, then the modernist understanding of the nature/ culture divide, separating social and natural science, no longer holds. Nature can no longer be understood as operating on fixed or natural laws, while politics and culture can no longer be understood as operating in a separate sphere of autonomy and freedom. These assumptions, central to modernist constructions of progress, are seen to no longer exist or to have always been problematic. Thus, the Anthropocene is not merely a question of new or more pressing problems, such as climate change and extreme weather events, but also a matter of the tools and understandings that are available to us: in other words, it is a matter of how we know —of epistemology— and also of what we understand the world to consist of —i.e. questions of ontology. Consider, for example, the conventional understanding of security as the protection of a valued referent against external threats. The condition of the Anthropocene challenges such a notion of security. The Anthropocene as a condition, problematises easy assumptions about ‘us’ as the security ‘referent’ —as the object to be secured. The problematisation of ‘us’ —the privileged gaze of the Western policymaking subject— opens up a substantial set of problems which deeply impact the disciplinary assumptions of International Relations. This is expressed, for example, in Bruno Latour’s concept of Earthbound people, i.e., an imaginary collective of people who consider themselves sensitive and responsive, due to being bound by and to the Earth. We are the problem as much as the solution, the ‘them’ as much as the ‘us’, the ‘enemy’ as much as the ‘friend’. Accordingly, the Anthropocene condition calls for reflection upon —and ultimately transition away from— the idea of a separation between nature and humanity. To perform this shift in perspective, concepts such as “worldly” or “ecological security” have been proposed. Matt McDonald develops a notion “ecological security” through an engagement with existing discourses of climate security. According to him, established ways of thinking about climate security would reinforce a problematic nature-culture divide by either presenting climate change as an external threat to vulnerable human communities or, conversely, human actors as a threat to fragile nature in need of protection. Ecological security would instead focus on supporting and sustaining the long-term resilience of ecosystems —understood as entangled systems of both human and non-human elements. Ensuring that “ecosystems can continue to function in the face of current and future change” is accordingly, the only defensible approach to security in the condition of the Anthropocene. Similarly, a worldly approach to security stresses that threats such as war, major industrial accidents, or ecological collapse do not affect humans in isolation but rather endanger the common worlds co-constituted by humans and diverse nonhuman beings. Harrington and Shearing hold that security in the Anthropocene should become oriented towards an “ethics of care”. Care, according to them, is able to emphasize the types of deep relational thinking that are so appropriate when discussing the Earth’s ongoing and unknown patterns of interactions and responses. It allows one to see security as a radical entanglement between humans, non-human animals, plants, bacteria, materials and technology. Learning how to navigate this entanglement with care will be a primary task for International Relations in our Anthropocene world. This article is organised in three sections. Firstly, we introduce the concept of the Anthropocene. We refer to the Anthropocene as a condition that we are in rather than as an external set of problems which we are confronted with. Understood as a condition which we are in, rather than merely a set of strategic and tactical problems which we confront, the Anthropocene enables us to go beyond the traditional binaries of our disciplinary tradition. The second section provides some background to the disciplinary history of International Relations, here we seek to briefly flag up the importance of thinking the Anthropocene in relation to the history of the discipline, which could be understood as moving from an ‘inter-national’ or state-centred focus during the Cold War to a global set of much broader concerns from the 1980s to the 2000s, to an increased interest in the Anthropocene, understood as a ‘planetary’ challenge to the liberal universal assumptions that followed the decline of ‘realist’ hegemony. The third section focuses on the implications of the Anthropocene for three key themes: knowledge, governance and security.
This article describes an environmental crisis in Iran that is actually a multidimensional crisis of law and policy. The article explores the restorative nodal governance response to such polycentric problems by weaving together five related ideas originating from criminologist and regulatory scholar Clifford Shearing: nodal governance; regulatory culture as a storybook (rather than a rulebook); justice as a better future; networked discovery of Awareness, Motivation, and Pathways for transformation; and a green ethic of care to guide transformation. We use an imaginary of a river to learn from a confluence of these ideas. They involve nodes of local governance organized by front‐line workers who restoried intertwined problems with an ethic of care. The challenge uncovered is that restorative micro‐strategies proved promising when steering powerless actors, but frayed when faced with factory owners. More aggressive strategies of nodal governance may bring forth more responsive escalation in order to confront privilege. Yet such strategies might be more creatively escalated as nodes of conversational regulation that reconfigure Shearing's five insights to transform landscapes of power. A coherence discovered inductively across these insights revolves on restorative nodal contestation of hegemony. Even lives as infused with domination as those found along the Kashaf River in Iran, where our case study is set, can be restored in counterhegemonic ways. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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The 40th Anniversary Edition of Taylor, Walton and Young’s New Criminology, published in 2013, opened with these words: ‘The New Criminology was written at a particular time and place, it was a product of 1968 and its aftermath; a world turned upside down’. We are at a similar moment today. Several developments have been, and are turning, our 21st century world upside down. Among the most profound has been the emergence of a new earth, that the ‘Anthropocene’ references, and ‘cyberspace’, a term first used in the 1960s, which James Lovelock has recently termed a ‘Novacene’, a world that includes both human and artificial intelligences. We live today on an earth that is proving to be very different to the Holocene earth, our home for the past 12,000 years. To appreciate the Novacene one need only think of our ‘smart’ phones. This world constitutes a novel domain of existence that Castells has conceived of as a terrain of ‘material arrangements that allow for simultaneity of social practices without territorial contiguity’ – a world of sprawling material infrastructures, that has enabled a ‘space of flows’, through which massive amounts of information travel. Like the Anthropocene, the Novacene has brought with it novel ‘harmscapes’, for example, attacks on energy systems. In this paper, we consider how criminology has responded to these harmscapes brought on by these new worlds. We identify ‘lines of flight’ that are emerging, as these challenges are being met by criminological thinkers who are developing the conceptual trajectories that are shaping 21st century criminologies.
The Anthropocene is something of a ‘game-changer’ for the way we can and should view international relations. It suggests the need to step back and reconsider some of the core assumptions we have about the way the world works. In the context of the Anthropocene, this means that the environment is no longer a background to geopolitics, but rather a dynamic force that impacts global politics. This chapter makes the case that the Anthropocene compels us to view and approach security not through the lens of how we might protect human collectives or institutions, but how we might protect ecosystems themselves. Consequentially, this points to a defence of ecosystems, in particular their functionality in the face of ongoing change. For doing so, the chapter outlines the contours of an ecological security discourse, emphasising its focus on the resilience of ecosystems and the rights and needs of the most vulnerable.
This chapter explores an alternative logic and ethic of security—care—that may represent the unique conditions of the Anthropocene age. It begins by providing an overview of how a specific ethical injunction—to care—has historically emerged within feminist discourses and how it has slowly been adopted by International Relations (IR) scholars. It then moves to discuss how care can be used as an ethical and political concept for addressing new types of avoidable (and unavoidable) threats arising from diverse sources entangled with human action. Finally, it explores the unique benefits and potential pitfalls for engaging with the concept of care in securing our new world. Rather than re-using traditional security concepts, which have been constructed from a belief in a violent estrangement between competing units, care allows us to see security as a radical entanglement between humans, nonhuman animals, seeds, bacteria, materials, and technology.
‘Peace ecology’ is a scientific approach that aims to build bridges between peace research and environmental studies. In 2000, Paul J. Crutzen introduced the Anthropocene as a new epoch of Earth’s history. Geologists still need to identify evidence in the sediments, e.g. from nuclear explosions and the testing of nuclear and hydrogen weapons in the atmosphere, that such a transition has actually occurred. Direct human interventions into the Earth System through the accumulation of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have caused multiple societal impacts, resulting in rapid increases in production, consumption, urbanisation, pollution, migration, crises and conflicts. Peace ecology in the Anthropocene era of Earth and human history can be conceptualised on the basis of five conceptual pillars: peace, security, equity, sustainability and gender. This chapter develops ‘peace ecology’ in the context of the Anthropocene in ten sections. After a detailed conceptual introduction (2.1), the second Sect. (2.2) discusses five alternative starting points of the Anthropocene: the Agricultural or the Industrial Revolutions, the Columbian Exchange, the Nuclear era and the ‘Great Acceleration’, while the third Sect. (2.3) offers a conceptual mapping of the Anthropocene and the fourth Sect. (2.4) interprets the Anthropocene as a turning point, context and challenge for science and politics. For the new context of the Anthropocene Sect. 2.5 offers a rethinking of peace and the evolution of peace research since the end of World War I, World War II and the Cold War in selected countries and the development of three international peace research organisations: IPRA, PSS(I) and ISA-PEACE. A reconceptualisation of peace in the Post-Cold War Era (1990–2020) and in the Anthropocene is also taking place. Section 5.6 reviews the evolution and rethinking of several ecology concepts (human, political, social) and (political) geo-ecological approaches during the Anthropocene. Section 2.7 reviews several bridge-building initiatives between peace research and ecology that were previously developed by scholars (e.g. Kenneth and Elise Boulding, Arthur H. Westing et al.) and were suggested during the conceptual debate on environmental and ecological security and in the empirical case studies by Günter Bächler (Switzerland) and Thomas Homer Dixon (Canada) on environmental degradation, scarcity and stress as causes and on conflictive outcomes. Since the end of the Cold War, from a policy perspective, debates have evolved on environmental peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding and on climate change, security and conflict linkages. While older bridge-building efforts stemming from peace research have addressed issues related to violence, more recent discourses emerging from environment and sustainability studies have addressed issues of sustainability transition and their impact on sustainable peace (Peck 1998) initiatives in the Anthropocene Sect. 2.7. Section 2.8 focuses on the suggested peace ecology approach and research programme as a holistic, enlightening and critical scientific project for the Anthropocene. For this it is necessary to overcome the fragmentation of scientific and political knowledge to incorporate holistic perspectives and transformative approaches that facilitate the move from knowledge to action. In Sect. 2.9 the author addresses the need to develop an ecological peace policy for the second phase of the Anthropocene (2020–2100) by developing strategies and policies to surmount the challenges in the Anthropocene. In Sect. 2.10 the author concludes by proposing a peace ecology research programme and an ecological peace policy in the Anthropocene (2.10).
The first part of this chapter discusses how the security implications of climate change have become an issue in academic and political debates and how this relates to the main puzzle of the book, that is, to understand multiple securitisations and their political effects. The second part introduces a novel theoretical approach to securitisation. Based on Foucault’s ‘power triangle’, the chapter develops three ideal-typical climate security discourses that guide the empirical analysis. The chapter argues that a power-centred approach can better grasp the manifold forms of securitisation in contemporary political debates because it helps to understand the continuous transformation of security, sheds light on the constitution of security subjects and objects, and contextualises the bidirectional political and the normative consequences of linking non-traditional issues to security.
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