Earthly Ethics

Anthropocene Campus, ©Sera Cakal

Statements by Zev Trachtenberg (Philosophy, University of Oklahoma), Will Steffen (Climate Change Institute, Australian National University, Canberra), Philipp Oswalt (architect and publicist, Architectural Theory and Design, Universität Kassel). Discussion moderated by Ashkan Sepahvand.

At its core, the Anthropocene seems to evoke an ethical stretch of unprecedented proportions. The entire physical scale of the planet – from the individual and local to the totality of the global – is compressed down to questions of conscience, responsibility, and empathy. This ethical reorientation extends not only for and towards one’s immediate neighbor, including the next proximity along the scale (for example, from family to community), but also to the very remote human, or non-human, entity. Modernity seems to have interrupted long-held principles of spatiotemporal ethics, defined by an integrity of continuity between past and future generations, as well as a clear positioning within an immediate environment.

For today, it appears that inter-generational and environmental justice, sustainability efforts and future stewardship all become key issues once more, driven by a renewed need for care and concern, temporarily halted by Modernity’s claim to mastering both time and space. What kind of ethical values does the Anthropocene demand? How can local virtues and universal laws co-habit an ethical paradigm? How do the diversity of cultural predispositions and scientific authority – with its global entitlement – come to occupy shared spatiotemporal coordinates?

Recording: Video / Audio