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Pivotal 20th Century Contributions to the Development of the Anthropocene Concept:Overview and Implications

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Abstract

Humans have become such dominant drivers of planetary changes that scientists are now debating the establishment of a new epoch: the Anthropocene. The concept of the Anthropocene has gained rapid visibility, quickly becoming a trademark of 21st century scientific literature. Interestingly, some studies claim that this idea can be traced back to the 19th and 20th centuries, others suggest that this concept is strongly associated with emerging multidisciplinary views of humans as drivers of global environmental change. In this article, we analyse bibliographical data to trace the key 20th century contributions towards the development of this concept in scientific literature. Using data from Web of Science, we identify five historical citation peaks and show that their associated key publications stem both from natural and social sciences, clearly highlighting the multidisciplinary nature of Anthropocene science. With the ongoing debate for a formal definition of the Anthropocene epoch, we argue that a geological definition aligned with the interdisciplinary development of the concept may be the best way to ensure that it remains relevant to the wider scientific community.

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... The Anthropocene can function as a "bridging concept" (Brondizio et al., 2016, 320) to overcome epistemological divides between and within the natural and social sciences and the humanities. At least the academic debate about the Anthropocene includes a wide range of scientific disciplines such as geology, ecology, philosophy, history of sociology, environmental science, anthropology, economy, psychology, and gender studies, according to a broad literature review (Correia et al., 2018(Correia et al., , 1873. These findings support the idea that the representation of the Anthropocene in scientific debates has been shaped by an increasingly interdisciplinary understanding of Earth systems (e.g. as often found in the works of the Earth System Governance Network). ...
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This chapter outlines how different narratives and framings of the Anthropocene shape the democratic underpinning of sustainability discourses and thus transformative action towards sustainability. We synthesize the debates around democracy-related challenges of the Anthropocene, which allows us to develop implications for the field of sustainability. As the Anthropocene blurs the lines between human activity and environmental degradation on a global scale, the concept has become an indispensable source of legitimacy for action towards green transformations and decarbonization, while hiding the term’s inherently contested nature. Taking a social constructivist perspective, we argue that the democratic implications of the Anthropocene largely depend on how we frame the concept and which meanings we attach to it. While a science-driven, eco-modernist and techno-deterministic perception is likely to narrow down the room for democratic interventions, a more open, inclusive and reflexive use of the concept holds the chance to enhance democratic debates around the means and ends of sustainability. While we sketch out how opposing Anthropocene narratives frame these critical elements of democratic decision-making fundamentally differently, we also offer a deconstructivist frame of the Anthropocene which holds the potential to reclaim sustainability discourses, re-politicize sustainability action, and rethink the democratic underpinning of sustainability governance.
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was initially supported by a postdoctoral grant from CNPq (#158841/2015-8) and is currently supported by FCT -Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/ 118635/2016). RJL and ACMM are funded by CNPq -Conselho Na
  • R A C Acknowledgements
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. R.A.C. was initially supported by a postdoctoral grant from CNPq (#158841/2015-8) and is currently supported by FCT -Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/ 118635/2016). RJL and ACMM are funded by CNPq -Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (#310953/2014-6;
We thank Anna Pavlova and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments on the manuscript
#310349/2015-0). We thank Anna Pavlova and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments on the manuscript. Received 10 May 2017; revised accepted 7 July 2018 doi: 10.18520/cs/v115/i10/1871-1875