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Is the Human Impact Natural?

Is the Human Impact Natural?

(p.83) Four Is the Human Impact Natural?
Abundant Earth
Eileen Crist
University of Chicago Press

Naturalizing the human impact refers to the claim (implicit or open) that our ecological predicament is a consequence of our species’ nature and thus also an extension of the natural order. The chapter “Is the Human Impact Natural?” dissects a proclivity within environmental thought (and more broadly) to attribute the onslaught on the natural world to peculiarities or distinctions of “human nature.” The chapter argues that when human nature is evaluated as the culprit behind the ecological crisis, the discursive space for investigating the sociocultural conditioning into human supremacist beliefs and actions shrinks, and there is less incentive to pursue solutions by superseding the dominant anthropocentric worldview. The chapter examines three influential environmental discourses that naturalize humanity's impact: the “land-use transition” model; Anthropocene literature; and the Pleistocene Overkill Hypothesis. The commonalities running through these discourses is that they represent the human impact as a natural phenomenon and, being high-profile, are influential in shaping how the human juggernaut is understood. By deconstructing these three discourses the chapter argues that locating the culprit in our biological nature is largely an effect of narrative—of how the human impact is framed and represented.

Keywords:   human nature, Anthropocene, land transition, Pleistocene Overkill, narrative

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