After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene (Hardcover)

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After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene By Jedediah Purdy Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

I have read this book by legal scholar Jedediah Purdy every year since it came out in 2015. My copy is now lousy with notes and underlinings, because each re-reading, and every year which draws us deeper into the sense of environmental apocalypse, only strengthens its relevance. Purdy traces the idea of 'nature' in America, from its first days up to the present, the Anthropocene, when it is no longer possible - if indeed it ever was -  to divorce nature from human influence. He asks what our environemntal politics might look like in the coming years, and whether those politics will be democratic, or just as apocalyptic-feeling as they might right now seem.

— Madeleine


Nature no longer exists apart from humanity. Henceforth, the world we will inhabit is the one we have made. Geologists have called this new planetary epoch the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. The geological strata we are now creating record industrial emissions, industrial-scale crop pollens, and the disappearance of species driven to extinction. Climate change is planetary engineering without design. These facts of the Anthropocene are scientific, but its shape and meaning are questions for politics--a politics that does not yet exist. After Nature develops a politics for this post-natural world.

Jedediah Purdy begins with a history of how Americans have shaped their landscapes. He explores the competing traditions that still infuse environmental law and culture--a frontier vision of settlement and development, a wilderness-seeking Romanticism, a utilitarian attitude that tries to manage nature for human benefit, and a twentieth-century ecological view. These traditions are ways of seeing the world and humans' place in it. They are also modes of lawmaking that inscribe ideal visions on the earth itself. Each has shaped landscapes that make its vision of nature real, from wilderness to farmland to suburbs--opening some new ways of living on the earth while foreclosing others.

The Anthropocene demands that we draw on all these legacies and go beyond them. With human and environmental fates now inseparable, environmental politics will become either more deeply democratic or more unequal and inhumane. Where nothing is pure, we must create ways to rally devotion to a damaged and ever-changing world.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780674368224
ISBN-10: 0674368223
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Pages: 336
Language: English