Environmental anthropologist Gísli Pálsson unpacks some knotty assumptions that need to be worked out if the international community is to manage a coherent response to the challenges of the Anthropocene. One of these is the problematic notion of human unity — the “we” too often casually assumed — in light of the diversity of geographical, cultural, political and socio-economic differences in human groups and societies around the globe. Another is the notion of science, which he asserts is already losing the capital “S” in response to a growing need to unite disciplines and varieties of knowledge represented by social sciences, literary scholarship, and the humanities in the broadest sense, as well as other communities not part of the academic establishment of specialists. Such refinements in our thinking and assumptions may need to be embraced, he suggests, if we are to come to terms with the new challenges facing humanities and the planet in the Anthropocene.
Gísli Pálsson reflects on the ancient Greek concept of oikos (housekeeping / household economy), from which the modern concepts both of economy and ecology derive, as potentially holding a renewed relevance in the Anthropocene. With human beings searching for solutions to wicked problems in a world in which ‘planetary boundaries’ have become a priority consideration, we may find in this root concept of oikos a new tool in an ancient sheath as we actively rethink and reexplore our bonds to the earth and to each other.
Marianne Lien and Gisli Pálsson, Beyond Human: Exploring the Other-than-Human hidden stories in historical and contemporary representations
Philippe Descola and Gisli Pálsson (Eds), Nature and Society: Anthropological Perspectives
Gísli Pálsson, Down to Earth: A Memoir
Gísli Pálsson, The Human Age: How we caused the climate crisis
VIDEO CREDITS: Hartman, Steven, Peter Norrman and Gísli Pálsson. Can humans overcome their differences to face the challenges of the Anthropocene? And What Historical Concepts Can Help Us Negotiate the Implications of the Anthropocene? Originally published in bifrostonline.org, 30 November 2017 (CC BY-SA 2.0) WII gratefully acknowledges bifrostonline.org and the leadership of the research network NIES for all their valuable support and work behind the scenes that helped make the interview excerpted in this video possible. Grateful acknowledgment is also made to Mid Sweden University, where the interview was filmed.