Illustration: Jessica Fortner                      

Approaching the Anthropocene: Global Culture and Planetary Change brings together scholars from the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences, law, and medicine in order to assess the role of humanistically-oriented interdisciplinary thought in confronting the challenges posed by the “Anthropocene,” a term designating a new epoch in planetary history intended to recognize that human activity has left a permanent record in the strata of the earth and altered the course of biotic evolution. Since the term first appeared in print in 2000, and especially since 2008, when the International Commission on Stratigraphy approved a Working Group to explore the possibility of adopting formally this designation, the Anthropocene concept has gained traction both within and beyond the academy. It places our understanding of the contemporary environmental crisis on a geological scale, directing us to a vastly extended past no less than to a deep future. In so doing, the Anthropocene demands that we comprehend anew the complex interrelations between our own time and others, local contexts and planetary scale. The Sawyer Seminar seeks both to demonstrate the necessity of humanistic inquiry in the present era of environmental change, and to explore how humanities scholars (both within and beyond the environmental humanities) can better prepare for what lies ahead.