#7CheapThings: Raj Patel on World Ecology and More

Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated Earth. In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analyzing today’s planetary emergencies. Read on below to learn more about world ecology and the importance of #7CheapThings in our current political climate.

What is world ecology?

Like all academic terms of art, it’s not quite what it appears. World-ecology isn’t the ecology of planet Earth – that’d just be ‘ecology’. World-ecology is an intellectual update of world-systems theory, which in its day was a new way to think about what unit of analysis to use to explain and understand social change. Rather than take individual states as molecules in a system interacting with one another, world-systems theory looked to the processes that produced those states, at how Britain wouldn’t be Britain except through its interactions with the rest of the planet. World-ecology goes one better. Rather than looking at humans and nature separately, world-ecology looks at how our understanding of human and nature have been produced together.

What is the capitalocene vs. anthropocene?

Understanding the answer to question 1 makes it easier to answer this question. World-ecology makes it harder to believe that there’s some timeless and unchanging set of things that constitute being human in the world. For the term ‘anthropocene’ to make sense, you have to believe that the current transformations of the planet, recorded in the earth as extinctions and radioactivity and plastic, are the inevitable outcomes of anthropos, of humans. The counterargument is that while humans have indeed been responsible for extinctions in the past 20,000 years, we also still have human civilizations – particularly indigenous ones – that are very good at living within the web of life without leaving a trail of destruction. The real uptick in planetary transformation has much less to do with being human and much more to do with capitalism. So rather than call it the anthropocene, it’s more accurate to call it the capitalocene.

How do we make sense of your book’s message during the current political climate?

We’re writing this book to help connect dots between different movements for change, to show how ideas of patriarchy and supremacy have always been intersectional. We’re already very excited about the international reception we’ve received for these ideas, and what we’re hoping is that they can help inform the theorizing and organizing for change that’s happening around the world, helping movements to connect with one another in ways that can make them stronger.

Read more posts in our #7CheapThings blog series here.


Raj Patel care author photoRaj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.


Earth Day and the Anthropocene

This post concludes our Earth Week blog series. Thank you for reading!

by Jason M. Kelly, editor of Rivers of the Anthropocene

On November 4, 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement went into effect. Signed and ratified by the vast majority of members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the agreement wasn’t perfect. But, it was an important step forward in mitigating the worst effects of climate change. Four days later, the United States elected a president who had previously claimed that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

In the months that have followed, the new president and his administration have begun implementing a wholesale attack on climate science and environmental regulations. The new administration’s policies point to the close connections between society — politics, culture, and economy — and environmental systems. Rejecting scientific warnings, it has doubled down on its support of fossil fuel consumption and economic opportunism at the expense of the environment. Its justifications and appeals to the public — economic necessity, individual freedom, and nationalism — are framed through ideologies that have historical roots going back centuries. The actions that their policies enable will have environmental consequences that last far beyond the lifetimes of those currently serving in office.

The interrelations between society, culture, economy, politics, and environments have deep histories. In fact, to imagine sociocultural and geobiophysical systems as distinct entities would be a mistake; they are entangled. Historically, environmental contexts have played key roles in shaping sociocultural systems. And, humans have had greater or lesser impacts on their regional ecologies over tens of thousands of years through clear cutting, slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting and fishing, and flood control and irrigation systems.

Over the past several hundred years, the relationship between humans and their environments has intensified as human populations have grown. Consumption of resources, magnified by the energy unleashed by burning fossil fuels, has resulted in fundamental transformations of earth systems (e.g. carbon cycle, water cycle, nitrogen cycle). And, political contingencies, cultural beliefs, and economic desires have reinforced behaviors that continue to destabilize the planet’s systems.

Because humans have become such a powerful environmental force, a growing number of scientists have suggested that we have entered a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene. Humanity’s impact on the planet can be measured in sediments and ice cores. Its actions have entered the geological record.

Understanding the Anthropocene requires more than just researching the environmental effects of human actions however. As important is understanding the role that human systems play in shaping behaviors — for example, the ways that capitalism and imperialism have encouraged certain practices of resource extraction and modes of thinking. Doing so allows us to address more than just the consequences of human action. It helps us understand the root causes as well.

At its core then, research on the Anthropocene is focused on exploring the historical entanglements between sociocultural and geobiophysical systems. This necessitates multidisciplinarity — of scientists, social scientists, humanists, artists, policy makers, and community organizers working together to tackle environmental challenges in all of their complexities. This work includes descriptive and analytical approaches, but also public engagement meant to influence policy and public attitudes. In the current political context, this type of work is one important tool in mitigating the worst effects of climate change denial and attacks on environmental protections.


Jason M. Kelly is Director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute and Associate Professor of History at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene Call for Papers: Sustainability Transitions

We invite you to submit your next paper to the Sustainability Transitions domain of Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal whose mission is Open Science for the Public Good.

Elementa publishes original research with the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact. Structured into six distinct knowledge domains, the Sustainability Transitions domain welcomes contributions that advance knowledge on shifting society-environment interactions to sustainability — to a world in which human beings and other life flourish in diverse social and environmental contexts. A primary purpose of this domain is to bridge boundaries among disciplines, geographies, cultures, and institutions, and between scholars and practitioners; thus, we encourage submissions from scholars in the social and natural sciences and humanities, and practitioners, innovators, and leaders who are forging ahead with strategies to shift towards sustainability.

For the full Aims & Scope of the Sustainability Transitions domain, please click here.

In addition to innovative features including a value-sharing business model and an article-promotion partnership with Kudos, Elementa articles are highly used and downloaded (see highlighted articles below). For the full Elementa story, visit our website at elementascience.org.

For Elementa news and updates, be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

There has never been a more important time to ensure that transparent, evidence-based, peer-reviewed research has the widest and most impactful dissemination as possible. Please consider submitting your papers to Elementa or developing a Special Feature or Forum, and feel free to get in touch with Anne Kapuscinski, Dartmouth, Editor in Chief for Sustainability Transitions, should you have any questions.


Special Forums currently open for submissions

Multi-stakeholder initiatives for sustainable supply networks
Food-energy-water systems: Opportunities at the Nexus
Cuba’s agrifood system in transition
New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems

High-impact Sustainability Transitions content from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

(All metrics from March 15, 2017)

Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios
Peters CJ, Picardy J, Darrouzet-Nardi AF, Wilkins JL, Griffin TS, et al. 2016.
Total usage: 73,969 views/downloads since original publication on July 22, 2016

Farmer perceptions of climate change risk and associated on-farm management strategies in Vermont, northeastern United States
Rachel E. Schattman, David Conner, V. Ernesto Méndez
Total usage: 7,373 views/downloads since original publication on Oct 12, 2016

Opportunities for energy-water nexus management in the Middle East & North Africa
Farid AM, Lubega WN, Hickman WW. 2016.
Total usage: 6,043 views/downloads since original publication on Oct 26, 2016


The Rhythms of History

This guest post is published in conjunction with the American Historical Association conference in Denver, January 5-8. When sharing this post on social media, please be sure to use the hashtag #AHA17!


by Jeremy Davies, author of The Birth of the Anthropocene

The American Historical Association’s annual conference begins today, and the panel I’d most like to attend is no. 142, “The Anthropocene in History,” chaired by John McNeill (I wrote about Prof. McNeill’s most recent book here). Being used to more modestly-sized British conferences, I’ve never seen an academic conference panel take place in a ballroom, as the programme claims this one will.

It’s an interesting title: “The Anthropocene in History.” Does the proposed new “Anthropocene” epoch of geological time really belong inside history? Or, on the contrary, does historical time belong inside geological epochs like the Anthropocene? Or neither? Perhaps instead we should think of historical and geological time units as coupled to but distinct from one another: they might weave together like, well, dancing partners.

If y9780520289970ou’re like Jedediah Purdy, and think that the Anthropocene means “the end of the division between people and nature,” then for you the Anthropocene obviously isn’t a historical concept (because when exactly were people divided from “nature” in a way that they aren’t today?). But if you’re a geologist, and you think that the Anthropocene can be dated to the year 1952, then you’re at odds with normal conceptions of history in a different way. If the Anthropocene began in 1952 then the geological epoch that preceded it, the Holocene, must have lasted from 9700 BC to AD 1952. That’s a much, much longer and yet much more specific periodization than the ones historians are usually comfortable with (compare, say, the “Gilded Age”). And you’re implying that the Anthropocene itself might run from 1952 until—when? AD 13,604?

Either way, can the Anthropocene really be made to fit “in” history? I think that all depends on what you mean by history. The geologists’ idea of the Anthropocene suggests that the planet has changed so radically in the last few centuries that a whole new chapter of geological time has begun. That new beginning will still be recognisable through changes in the fossil record in hundreds of thousands of years from now.

In other words, although it used to be practical and convenient to study the geological history of the Earth in one corner of a university, and to go somewhere else to study “history” in the only sense that matters to 99% of the panels at the AHA conference, that’s no longer the case. Now, the two have started treading on each other’s toes.

So I’m glad that there’s a panel on the Anthropocene at the AHA. It won’t be easy for geologists and historians to end up in each other’s arms, intellectually speaking, but it might be worth it.

One of the panellists is Julia Adeney Thomas, the author of a brilliant essay arguing that if historians of the human-sized world must now start listening to the slow music of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, that means they’d better also tune in to the microscopic level as well. 90% of the cells in your body are actually bacterial rather than “human,” Thomas notes, and this “microbial part of us” alters “with such rapidity that the number of bacteria, in the right conditions, can double every twenty minutes.” I like the idea of a ballroom in which so many clashing rhythms might all be heard at once. But then I’ve never been much of a dancer.


Jeremy Davies teaches in the School of English at the University of Leeds. His book The Birth of the Anthropocene is available now. For more of his writing on the anthropocene era, please visit Made Ground.

Earth & Environmental Science and Ecology from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

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The AGU Fall Meeting continues. Thank you, again, to all attendees who have visited the UC Press booth 1512, which is featuring Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene for the first time. Today’s featured domains are Earth and Environmental Science, and Ecology.

If you’re interested in seeing how much usage, exposure, and impact your next article could get when submitted for consideration at Elementa, don’t delay and submit at www.elementascience.org. (Or, write with an enquiry to an Editor in Chief, or the publisher, Dan Morgan, at dmorgan@ucpress.edu.)

Thank you for reading!


Earth and Environmental Science

(All metrics from December 8, 2016)

Dating the Anthropocene: Towards an empirical global history of human transformation of the terrestrial biosphere
Ellis EC, Fuller DQ, Kaplan JO, Lutters WG. 2013.
Total views: 29,114 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Seasonally varying contributions to urban CO2 in the Chicago, Illinois, USA region: Insights from a high-resolution CO2 concentration and δ13C record
Moore J, Jacobson AD. 2015.
Total views: 17,802 since original publication on Jun 05, 2015

Sources and sinks of carbon in boreal ecosystems of interior Alaska: A review
Douglas TA, Jones MC, Hiemstra CA, Arnold JR. 2014.
Total views: 17,273 Since original publication on Nov 07, 2014

Earthcasting the future Critical Zone
Goddéris Y, Brantley SL. 2013.
Total views: 16,809 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Special Features open for submissions and enquiries
Deltas in the Anthropocene

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Ecology

(All metrics from December 8, 2016)

Warming, soil moisture, and loss of snow increase Bromus tectorum’s population growth rate
Compagnoni A, Adler PB. 2014.
Total views: 22,474 since original publication on Jan 08, 2014

Quantifying flooding regime in floodplain forests to guide river restoration
Marks CO, Nislow KH, Magilligan FJ. 2014.
Total views: 20,006 since original publication on Sep 03, 2014

Biotic impoverishment
Naeem S. 2013.
Total views: 18,999 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Towards a general theory of biodiversity for the Anthropocene
Cardinale BJ. 2013.
Total views: 16,438 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Special Feature
Urban Aquatic Ecosystems: New approaches to understanding urban aquatic ecosystems


Sustainability Transitions and Sustainable Engineering from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

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Thank you to everyone who has come to see Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene so far at Booth 1512 (UC Press) at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Today, we present our highly downloaded content in the domains of Sustainability Transitions, and Sustainable Engineering.

Have your recent publications at other journals received the same amount of usage and exposure? (e.g. 60,000+ views since July 2016…see below). Does everyone who should read your work have access to it? If not, or in doubt, (or even just because!) submit your next article to us at www.elementascience.org or get in touch with Dan Morgan at dmorgan@ucpress.edu or Kim Locke at klocke@elementascience.org in the first instance, or come and see us at AGU booth 1512.


Sustainability Transitions

(All metrics from December 8, 2016)

Expert opinion on extinction risk and climate change adaptation for biodiversity
Javeline D, Hellmann JJ, McLachlan JS, Sax DF, Schwartz MW, et al. 2015.

Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios
Peters CJ, Picardy J, Darrouzet-Nardi AF, Wilkins JL, Griffin TS, et al. 2016.
Total views: 62,799 since original publication on July 22, 2016

Opportunities for energy-water nexus management in the Middle East & North Africa
Farid AM, Lubega WN, Hickman WW. 2016.
Total views: 4,210 since original publication under 2 months ago on Oct 26, 2016

Special Features open for submissions and enquiries
Avoiding collapse
The extinction of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Is it possible?

Forums open for submissions
Cuba’s agrifood system in transition
Multi-stakeholder initiatives for sustainable supply networks
New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems

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Sustainable Engineering

(All metrics from December 8, 2016)

Geoengineering redivivus
Allenby B. 2014.
Total views: 16,588 since original publication Feb 12, 2014

Forum open for submissions
Food-energy-water systems: Opportunities at the nexus


Atmospheric Science and Ocean Science from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

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Moving into Day 2 of Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting, we are pleased to present some highly downloaded content from our Atmospheric Science, and Ocean Science, domains.

Do you want the chance for similar exposure for your work? Submit your next article to us at www.elementascience.org or get in touch with dmorgan@ucpress.edu in the first instance, or come and see us at AGU booth 1512.


Atmospheric Science

Highlighted articles
(All metrics from December 8, 2016)

Global distribution and trends of tropospheric ozone: An observation-based review
Cooper OR, Parrish DD, Ziemke J, Balashov NV, Cupeiro M, et al. 2014.
Total views: 28,750 since original publication on July 10, 2014

Influence of oil and gas emissions on ambient atmospheric non-methane hydrocarbons in residential areas of Northeastern Colorado
Thompson CR, Hueber J, Helmig D. 2014.
Total views: 22,538 since original publication on Nov 14, 2014

Dimethyl sulfide control of the clean summertime Arctic aerosol and cloud
Leaitch WR, Sharma S, Huang L, Toom-Sauntry D, Chivulescu A, et al. 2013.
Total views: 17,585 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Special Feature open for submissions
Quantification of urban greenhouse gas emissions: The Indianapolis Flux experiment

Forum open for submissions
Oil and Natural Gas Development: Air Quality, Climate Science, and Policy

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Ocean Science

(All metrics from December 8, 2016)

Evidence of lasting impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep Gulf of Mexico coral community
Hsing P, Fu B, Larcom EA, Berlet SP, Shank TM, et al. 2013.
Total views: 25,644 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

The evolution and future of carbonate precipitation in marine invertebrates: Witnessing extinction or documenting resilience in the Anthropocene?
Drake JL, Mass T, Falkowski PG. 2014.
Total views: 21,489 since original publication on May 07, 2014

The changing Arctic Ocean
Arrigo KR. 2013.
Total views: 19,168 since original publication on Dec 04, 2013

Solar energy capture and transformation in the sea
Karl DM. 2014.
Total views: 18,706 since original publication on Jan 08, 2014

Special Features open for submissions and enquiries

Impacts of natural versus anthropogenic oil inputs on the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem

Advances in ocean acidification research

The sea surface microlayer

Oceans and human health in a changing environment

Marginal ice zone processes in the summertime Arctic

Climate change impacts: Fish, fisheries and fisheries management

Biogeochemical Exchange Processes at Sea-Ice Interfaces (BEPSII)


Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene – Open Science for Public Good

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The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting this week in San Francisco marks our first public event as the new publisher of the open access journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. If you are at the event, please stop by our booth number 1512. (Other UC Press products and books will also be on display.)

For those new to it, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal with the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact. It is structured into six distinct knowledge domains, and gives authors the opportunity to publish in one or multiple domains, helping them to present their research and commentary to interested readers from disciplines related to their own.

Because such solutions will require collaboration among all research disciplines, and among academics, practitioners, and policymakers, the journal’s trans-disciplinary nature is essential. For the sake of presenting articles in a series this week during AGU, we will focus on each of the domains in turn. (And we begin tomorrow with Atmospheric Science and Ocean Science.)

We want to particularly highlight our content’s high usage and download metrics—there has doubtless never been a more important time to ensure that this research has the widest and most open dissemination as possible. By getting published at Elementa, you will maximize your exposure, and we have the metrics to prove it.

If you have an article you would like to submit, or a special feature or forum you would like to propose, please visit www.elementascience.org, or get in touch with dmorgan@ucpress.edu in the first instance, or come and see us at AGU booth 1512.

Please watch this short video introducing Elementa, and check out the general list of special features and forums that are open for submissions, below it.

Special Features currently accepting submissions

Forums currently accepting submissions


Lights Out: Brexit and the Environment

Today’s post concerning the Brexit referendum and its potential impact on the environment comes from Jeremy Davies, author of The Birth of the Anthropocene. This re-blog appears courtesy of Made Ground, a website on the anthropocene era where it originally appeared.


There is a half-plausible Left case against the European Union (for the member states in general, not for Britain in particular). But this afternoon, Farage’s victory feels absolute—victory “without a bullet being fired” as he shouted this morning, overlooking in the heat of the moment the assassination of Jo Cox. In comparison to Farage, even Johnson seems to me almost diminished rather than conquering—among the political class, at least, if not necessarily with the voters. Johnson was generally taken to be the leader of the Out campaign; his great gamble has paid out against the odds; and he may well be Prime Minister in four months’ time. And despite all that, just now both he and the souverainiste ideologues—Redwood, Cash, Hannan, Carswell, Gove, Rees-Mogg (all of them linked by that same curious closely studied masculinity)—seem secondary to Farage’s achievement.

There was a terrible fluency to Farage’s invocation of the “decent people” whose triumph it was. The odd thing is that a few hours earlier he’d been convinced he was going to lose; at 11 o’clock last night he was already setting loose a conspiracy theory about the voter registration process. But instead he’s turned out to be the first politician since Blair really able to mould events in England to his will, instead of just trimming his policy agenda to accommodate the popular mood. Tough-looking UKIP men congregated round him all night.

“Environmental issues” were virtually absent from mainstream discussion, except briefly when the out-supporting farming minister made some insufficiently coded remarks about “coming up with new, interesting ways to protect the environment,” “based on realistic assessments of risk.” But it’s understood that the most hardline extractivists have been disproportionately Leavers, and that this morning they were taken off the leash.

An autarkic agenda of fracking and fresh opencast coalmining is obviously a close fit with the new nativist ascendancy, though presumably there will also be rhetorical concessions (not necessarily practical ones) to the sensibility that wants the countryside protected from houses built for immigrants. Britain has tended for a long time to be ahead of the rest of Europe in attention to animal welfare, so the inevitable campaign to level down British environmental standards to those of the US in the interests of “buccaneering” free trade might encounter some struggles in that respect, if no other. But agricultural soil mining can presumably intensify without attracting much public awareness. The promised “bonfire of regulations” is likely to burn brightest among the EU’s controls on pollution—pesticides and herbicides, industrial toxicity, threats to public health, waste disposal—since that’s necessarily the most highly technical of domains; the skirmishes over neonicotinoids and Johnson’s record on air pollution as Mayor of London are ominous signs. And the carbon cycle… it’s hard to mourn the disruption of the EU Emissions Trading System (though perhaps in fact we should), but structural resistance to an energy transition within Britain seems bound to grow still stronger, and we’ve surely already lost the whole sense of a European vanguard on global climate policy in which Britain participates (and within which it even made the running, at least until 2010). That’s a horrifying blow.


Jeremy Davies teaches in the School of English at the University of Leeds.