The Anthropocene as a Multiple Crisis: Perspectives from Latin America

The CALAS Laboratory of Knowledge: “The Anthropocene as Multiple Crises: Latin American Perspectives” aims to contribute to the development of new methodological and analytical foci to understand the Anthropocene from Latin American and the Caribbean and from the Social Sciences and the Humanities. One main result of this laboratory of knowledge is a 6-volume bilingual handbook on the genealogy of the Anthropocene in Latin America

The Anthropocene describes a new geological epoch in which humans, by their sheer numbers, put unprecedented amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere through the mass-use of fossil fuels and by the large-scale extraction of non-renewable resources. Further processes by which humans have now come to change all spheres of the planet (such as plastic pollution, ocean acidification, species extinction, water source depletion etc.) form part of the multiple crises of the Anthropocene.

The beginning of the Anthropocene, although debated, is now proposed with broad agreement to begin from 1950 onwards under the term “Great Acceleration” named due to the rapid increase of polluting activities that make up the crisis of the Anthropocene occurring at that time. However, if there is a “Great Acceleration,” this also implies a phase of slower aggregation of these “anthropocenic” processes. Precisely because so many of the extractivist-capitalist practices that are a part of the Western, “Enlightened” energy model, and cultural setup had their origins in Latin America and the Caribbean, one is compelled to look at the pre-history of the Anthropocene since 1492.

From a Latin-American perspective, the Anthropocene and its pre-history cannot be separated from coloniality, the emergence of the capitalist world system, and racial capitalism. The critique of Western capitalism as a driver of the Anthropocene goes hand in hand with a radical critique of Western modernity and the recognition that the Anthropocene puts an abrupt end to teleological notions of “development,” “progress,” and “civilization”.

Laboratory coordination


Handbook series: The Anthropocene as a Multiple Crisis. Perspectives from Latin America