We are at stake to each other

A Reading Note

Donna Haraway rejects both the term “Anthropocene” and its lesser-known cousin “Capitalocene,” proposing instead we refer to this new epoch as the “Chthulucene.” The Chthulucene has, by my estimate, a less than zero chance of becoming a widely adopted term, but as usual, Haraway’s argument is cogent.

[T]he Chthulucene is made up of ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming-with in times that remain at stake, in precarious times, in which the world is not finished and the sky has not fallen—yet. We are at stake to each other. Unlike the domininant dramas of Anthropocene and Capitalocene discourse, human beings are not the only important actors in the Chthulucene, with all other beings able simply to react. The order is rather reversed: human beings are with and of the earth, and the other biotic and abiotic powers of this earth are the main story.

However, the doings of situated, actual human beings matter. It matters which ways of living and dying we cast our lot with rather than others. It matters not just to human beings, but also to those many critters across taxa which and whom we have subjected to exterminations, extinctions, genocides, and prospects of futurelessness. Like it or not, we are in the string figure game of caring for and with precarious worldings made terribly more precarious by fossil-burning man making new fossils as rapidly as possible in Anthropocene and Capitalocene orgies. Diverse human and nonhuman players are necessary in every fiber of the tissues of the urgently needed Chthulucene story. The chief actors are not restricted to the too-big players in the too-big stories of Capitalism and the Anthropos, both of which invite odd apocolyptic panics and even odder disengaged denunciations rather than attentive practices of thought, love, rage, and care.

Both the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene lend themselves to cynicism, defeatism, and self-certain and self-fulfilling predictions, like the “game over, too late” discourse I hear all around me these days, in both expert and popular discourses, in which both technotheocratic geoengineering fixes and wallowing in despair seem to co-infect any possible common imagination.

Moore, Anthropocene or Capitalocene?, page 59

The precariousness she discusses here is also a theme in Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s excellent book, The Mushroom at the End of the World, as is the notion that we need to decenter humans from ecologies—without excluding them. We are of nature not apart from it, and by no means the heart of it. What’s interesting about both Tsing and Haraway’s writing is the implicit and explicit feminism of their positions. Which is also another knock against the Anthropocene: it neither foregrounds equality nor rejects the “age of man” that chokes its roots.

Related books

This collection of essays explores what we should call this new geographic epoch marked by fossil-fueled climate change.