BY-PRODUCTS OF THE ANTHROPOCENE

BY-PRODUCTS OF THE ANTHROPOCENE

CELA 2018:  Transforming the Discussion

Paper prepared for the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Spring 2016 Conference. 
Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA

Matthew Tucker
University of Minnesota

Keywords:
Anthropocene, paradigm shift, nature, socio-ecological narratives, climate change

Abstract:

The Anthropocene can be recognized as both a stratigraphic marker and a paradigm shift that destabilizes entrenched theories of human-environment relations.  For example, within the geophysical sciences, recognition of human geologic agency has resulted in a reconsideration of landscapes as novel geomorphology and anthropogenic stratigraphy.  Within the humanities, theories of post-environmentalism, the hydrosocial and other nascent socio-ecological narratives are recasting human-environment relations in ways that challenge long-established environmental discourse and ethos. Anthropocene-based theories not only present new conceptualizations of environment and n/Nature, but these theories also catalyze a paradigm shift in how we think of landscapes –and their planning, design and management- relative to the newfound human geologic agency of the Anthropocene. Given this paradigm shift in human-environment relations, the author asserts that Anthropocene-based theories emerging from allied disciplines now provide an opportunity for landscape architecture scholarship and critical practice to examine, question and renew its discourse and pedagogy for the 21st century.  As Thomas Kuhn established, a paradigm shift within a discipline necessitates not only a recognition of alternative theories but also a critical examination and redefinition of a discipline’s operative lexicon. Through a brief examination of recent Anthropocene-based scholarship and pedagogy, this paper establishes a basis for an emerging Anthropocene-based landscape architecture lexicon.  This lexicon is examined through several examples, with particular emphasis on emerging conceptualizations of nature and socio-ecological systems that have arisen from allied disciplines. Demonstrations of an emerging Anthropocene-based landscape architectural lexicon are discussed through the critical examination of recent landscape architectural scholarship.  The paper concludes with speculation of key questions for future Anthropocene- based research and pedagogy.