Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is wonderful, then, to end the first year of the Anthropocene Journal with news that it has already spawned several imitators. In 2013, two publishers plan to launch Anthropocene journals. Academic publishing behemoth Elsevier unleashes the first issue of Anthropocene. Meanwhile, in July 2013 BioOne and several universities launch a new open-access journal, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

I wish both journals well. Except Elsevier’s on principle. Elsevier’s approach to  publishing is parasitic opportunism. It exploits well-meaning academics working freely as editors yet adds little value itself then brazenly sells the product back to the academic community. This brilliant business model generates mind-boggling profits. And must end.

New Year’s Resolution: open access of all for all.

3 thoughts on “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

  1. But were does it begin?

    The Czechs have had an anthropocene journal since 1963: Antropozoikum. The English translation. Anthropozoic was added the 1980s or so.

    I’m working on history of the Anthropocene tentatively titled “We Have Never Not Been Anthropocene.” It shows that from the very moment geologists and naturalists determined that humans are young and the planet old, the “current time”–whether that is the post-tertiary, recent, Quaternary, or Holocene–has at every moment been considered the “Age of Man”. Contrary to what has become common belief in recent years, the primary terms (especially Psychozoic, Anthropozoic and Anthropogene, but also Anthropolithic, Anthropic, etc.) are 1) older than recognized, and 2) much more commonly accepted in their day than the Anthropocene is today.

    The ubiquitous presence of Anthropocene terms and they way in which their use and disuse follows a remarkably consistent pattern, begs us to consider their relationship to anthropocentrism. Indeed the 18-19th century conflict between the emerging geological science and Scripture over the age of the Earth, was importantly mitigated by geologists maintaining a anthropocentric vision which in the end was more essential to Christian leaders than the antiquity of the Earth.

    None of this is say we are not in the Anthropocene or that the term is suspect. Rather it is, and always has been richly overdetermined. It invites us to consider the deep history, psychology, anthropology and religiosity at work in the term, regardless of whether current proponent recognize the fields they playing in.

    Kieran Suckling
    Executive Director
    Center for Biological Diversity

    • Kieran,

      This is fascinating – I have not come across the Czech journal before. First, I should clarify, the title of the blog post was tongue-in-cheek. The Anthropocene Journal does not aspire to be an academic journal, as I am sure you recognize.

      Your points relating to past uses and acceptance of similar terms are issues that must be taken up by these new journals, which, I think, aim to go beyond the geologic discussions.

      You make some powerful points about past use of similar terms. But I would dispute the notion that Anthropocene terms were more commonly accepted in the past than today. I think we are in a wholly new situation (in terms of our global-scale impact and our knowledge of that impact). Past discussions were largely restricted to niche academic debates (notwithstanding your excellent point on religious/geologic discussions on the age of the Earth). Now the discussion is much broader. Indeed, it has leapt – or is in mid leap – from the academic world into mainstream thinking – as it must given the significant societal and humanitarian implications underlying the concept. The fruits of this are already showing in the rich discussions and ideas emerging taking us beyond geology and into – as you rightly point out – psychology, history and religion, but also economics, political science and much more.

      Great to hear from you.

      • Google has a great new database that allows researchers to compare the relative popularity of search terms over time, taking into account the exponential increase in published literature through the centuries. It shows that terms such as Psychozoic, Anthropozoic and Anthropogene were relatively more popular in their day than Anthropocene is today. It is fascinating—and from a psycho/cultural perspective, predictable—to see that as each term’s popularity declines below a threshold of broad awareness, it is replaced by the next term which quickly becomes very popular before itself declining over several decades. Anthropocene is now in its early growth curve following the decline of the Anthropogene.

        My thesis is the idea(s) of the Anthropocene (some of which are contradictory) so deeply resonate with the core values—maybe THE core value—of Christianity, humanism, capitalism, and communism that some version of it has defined the current geological period at every moment since the discovery that human history is not coextensive with the Earth’s history.

        Again, this is not refutation or an historical reduction. It’s a suggestion that we see the Anthropocene not only as a scientific proposal or a contemporary cultural response to environmental degradation, but also as a 250 year old struggle of Western society to understand the meaning of being human.

        One implication of this broader view is to temper the drunken enthusiasm (en theos) with which Stuart Brand and others declare that the Anthropocene makes us as gods. This is certainly the traditional response going back without interruption to the first human-earth history (Buffon’s 1778 Epochs of Nature), but why should we think that continuing the tradition will lead us to anything other than more of the same?

        We are not gods. But we might be humans.

        If the current incarnation of the Anthropocene has a lesson for us, it is to learn how to, and appreciate being fully human on a radically finite planet.

        p.s. And speaking of imitations, check out the Psychozoic Press which has been in continual publication since 1982. They have an unusual take.

        Kieran Suckling
        Executive Director
        Center for Biological Diversity


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