New Materialism: An Ontology for the Anthropocene

30 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2019 Last revised: 2 Oct 2019

See all articles by Melinda Benson

Melinda Benson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 3, 2019

Abstract

The Anthropocene is not simply a new geologic epoch. It is a conceptual opportunity. In it, we can reconfigure our orientation to the material world. The Anthropocene is an opportunity to embrace a new ontology and reconfigure our orientation to the material world. The current, dominant ontology casts humans as villains responsible for mass extinctions, polluted oceans, and climate change. This ontology reinforces a familiar binary — one in which humans are separate from and doing things to nature. Humans are ruining the planet, causing it to fundamentally change in ways that are not “natural” precisely because humans are the agent of change. This belief — that humans are separate from and doing things to nature — is an ontological stance that is embedded within the environmental and natural resource laws of the United States. Unfortunately, this perception is not only inaccurate, it is also largely responsible for the situation in which we now find ourselves. The point of this article is not to defend the human actions that created the Anthropocene but instead to identify the core conditions that created it and investigate how our natural resource and environmental laws entrench these conditions rather than address them.

Keywords: new materialism, nonhuman, ontology, Anthropocene

Suggested Citation

Benson, Melinda, New Materialism: An Ontology for the Anthropocene (September 3, 2019). Natural Resources Journal, Vol. 59, No. 2, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3447625

Melinda Benson (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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