Prof. Josh Howe
2018 Ritter Fellow
Abstract: Since the early 2000s, scholars and environmentalist have used the term Anthropocene to describe a new geological epoch characterized by a discernable human impact on global environmental systems. Within the discipline of geology, the term carries a rather specific meaning, referring specifically to the ways in which human influence over geophysical systems may leave their mark on the geological record. Almost immediately upon its introduction, however, social scientists, humanists, and activists began to apply the word more broadly to modern humans’ changing relationship to the global environment, sometimes quite problematically. In this talk, Josh Howe explores the term’s origins and important insights, its troubling intellectual and political liabilities, and the particular challenges it poses for historians of U.S. history interested in America’s role in the broader world.