Ethics for living in the anthropocene

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This two day invited workshop brings together key thinkers from numerous disciplines and occupations to consider questions concerning ethics for living. The starting premise is the fact that we are now living in an era of unprecedented rapid environmental and social change. The long 10,000 year history of climatic stability on Earth enabled the rise of agriculture and domestication, the growth of cities, numerous technological revolutions, and the growth of modernity. In the most recent phase of this era, modernity is unmaking the stability that enabled its emergence. In this new era of climate change driven by human activities (the Anthropocene), increasingly severe and numerous weather disasters, increasing scarcity of key resources (water, as one major example), major changes in environments, enormous rates of extinction, and other factors that constrict the lives of people and other living beings, are set to increase. Current responses to these challenges focus on market-driven solutions that have the potential to further endanger our collective commons. Increasingly there is a call for new ways of ecological economic thinking and ethical practices of living. All around us are creative and innovative examples of experimentation that can offer guides for how to think and live differently.

Scholars and activists invited to participate in the workshop include people working with questions that cut across the nature/culture binary, the economy/ecology binary, and that explicitly seek to foster resilience. The challenge to participants is to mutually engage with each other and with their own previous work, bringing dialogue into being around three main themes: connectivity (overcoming nature/culture and other binaries), resilience (re-establishing dynamisms of care and responsibility) and futures (imagining and enacting ethical economies and ecologies). The workshop honours the work of two key women thinkers of the late twentieth century: Val Plumwood and Jane Jacobs. Each of these scholars argued for ethical connectivities across areas of social life that the western world had been systematically sundering: humans and nature (Plumwood), economy and ecology (Jacobs). Drawing on, and creatively working with their thought, the key issues that will structure the workshop discussions are:

  • Connecting humans and non-humans in ecologies and ethics
  • Enhancing resilience in the face of change
  • Articulating and enacting ethical responsibilities across places and with the future

The workshop will include leading Australian scholars, early career researchers, Indigenous thinkers and activists, and NGO thinkers and activists.

Prior to the workshop each participant will circulate for preparatory reading one key piece of writing that reflects the flavour of their work. Participants will be asked to prepare a short reflective paper for presentation at the workshop. These papers will focus on points of connection, overlap and creative extension prompted by the thoughts of all the other participants. The workshop will begin with an interactive exercise in which we consider the ways that we contribute to world changing action via the multiple and criss-crossing networks, or hybrid research collectives, in which we are embedded. Over the next two days the workshop will provide a space for dialogue, exploration, clarification, rethinking and experimentation. We will aim to articulate new research directions that are interdisciplinary and cross-cultural, that stretch beyond the academy, and that address theoretical and experiential dimensions of ethics for living in the Anthropocene.

The immediate products of the workshop will include:

  • a ‘manifesto’ for an ethics of living which will be immediately posted on the following websites www.communityeconomies.org and www.ecologicalhumanities.org along with workshop presentations and a reading list of relevant writings, and
  • a press statement for uptake by newspaper and radio media
  • More long term scholarly outcomes will in include a book, Ethics for Living in the Anthropocene, based on post-workshop revisions of the reflective papers presented in light of the collective discussion. We will be aiming for a very topical and stimulating set of entries and will take time in the workshop to discuss innovative formats for this book. The organizers have good contacts with University of Minnesota Press and the ANU e-Press and will approach both as possible publishers. In addition, the workshop will encourage smaller writing clusters to form around topics of mutual interest to produce scholarly articles and special editions of journals. Senior participants are members of the editorial boards of such journals as the Australian Humanities Review, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Gender, Place and Culture, and the Journal of Cultural Economy and are committed to mentoring early career researchers and fostering co-authorship possibilities.

Event Schedule

Contact Information

Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

    ABN: 59 957 839 703
  • Location: 26 Balmain Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601
  • Postal: GPO Box 1956, Canberra, ACT 2601
  • +61 .2 62491788
  • +61 .2 62474335
  • secretariat@assa.edu.au