Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Controversy associated with the term Anthropocene


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Climate change and the Concept of the Anthropocene

What’s the news?

  • Recent proposals to set the starting year of the Anthropocene at 1950 have been met with criticism due to their purportedly flawed representation of the true culprits behind ecosystem damage and climate change.

Central idea

  • The term Anthropocene was first proposed by the Nobel laureates, chemist Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer, at a meeting of the little-known International Biosphere-Geosphere Program in 2000 in Mexico. While the term persists, it has garnered limited acceptance within the environmental and geological communities.

The concept of the Anthropocene

  • The Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch that denotes the period during which human activities have had a significant and lasting impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems.
  • The concept emerged from the realization that human activities, such as deforestation, industrialization, urbanization, and the burning of fossil fuels, have caused profound and widespread changes to the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land, leading to phenomena such as climate change.
  • The term anthropocene was first proposed by Nobel laureates Paul Crutzen, a chemist, and Eugene Stoermer, a biologist, in the year 2000.
  • They suggested that the current epoch, the Holocene, which began around 11,700 years ago after the last glacial period, had ended and was replaced by the Anthropocene due to the extensive and unprecedented human impact on the planet.
  • Some argue that it began with the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, while others propose more recent dates, such as the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century or the mid-20th century, marked by a significant increase in human-induced environmental changes.

How it falls short in accurately acknowledging the real culprits of ecosystem damage?

  • Broad Attribution to All Humanity: The Anthropocene concept attributes the impact on Earth’s biosphere and climate system to all of humanity collectively. By treating all humans as culpable, the concept overlooks the disproportionate role played by certain actors, mainly corporate forces in the West.
  • Ignoring Historical Context: The Anthropocene concept does not adequately consider the historical context of environmental exploitation and resource extraction by colonial and imperialist powers, primarily from Western countries. Corporate forces in the West were major drivers of colonial practices that led to ecological harm and climate change in various regions, including Africa, India, and the Americas.
  • Downplaying Corporate Influence: While human activities have undoubtedly impacted the environment, the immense economic power and lobbying capabilities of corporations, mainly based in the West, have enabled them to shape environmental policies to their advantage, perpetuating unsustainable practices and hindering more significant efforts to combat climate change.
  • Blurring Responsibility: By attributing environmental impacts to humanity as a whole, the Anthropocene concept blurs the lines of responsibility and accountability. This lack of clear attribution allows corporate forces in the West to escape scrutiny and avoid taking necessary actions to mitigate their environmental footprint, putting the onus on all of humanity instead.
  • Neglecting Environmental Injustice: The Anthropocene concept does not adequately address the environmental injustices perpetrated by corporate forces in the West against marginalized communities, particularly in the global South.
  • Insufficient Focus on Systemic Change: While the Anthropocene concept highlights the need for environmental awareness and action, it may divert attention from the urgent need for systemic changes in corporate practices and global economic structures. Transformative changes are required to address the root causes of ecosystem damage and climate change, which are largely driven by profit-seeking behaviors of corporate entities, especially in the West.

Suggested alternatives to the concept of the Anthropocene

  • Corporatocene Epoch: This alternative term proposes a shift in focus from attributing responsibility broadly to all of humanity to specifically holding corporate forces, especially in the West, accountable for their significant role in environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Capitalocene: The Capitalocene concept emphasizes the role of capitalism in driving ecological degradation and climate change. It focuses on the exploitative nature of capitalist systems, where profit maximization often takes precedence over environmental sustainability.
  • Plantationocene: The Plantationocene perspective recognizes the historical legacy of plantation economies, particularly during the era of European colonialism. It sheds light on the exploitative practices associated with plantations, such as forced labor and ecological disruptions, which have had lasting effects on ecosystems and societies.
  • Chthulucene: The Chthulucene concept, proposed by Donna Haraway, challenges the human-centered focus of the Anthropocene and instead emphasizes interconnectedness and multispecies entanglements. By moving away from human-centric narratives, the Chthulucene perspective encourages a more inclusive and collaborative approach to addressing environmental issues.
  • Naturesocene: The Naturesocene perspective advocates for acknowledging the agency and contributions of non-human entities in shaping Earth’s systems. This approach seeks to break away from human-centric narratives and recognize the complex interactions between various elements of the natural world.
  • Indigenous Perspectives: Indigenous communities often have a deep understanding of their environment and have historically practiced sustainable living. Incorporating their wisdom can lead to more holistic and effective environmental solutions.

Way ahead: The call for accurate attribution

  • Identify Corporate Forces: By recognizing the significant impact of corporate entities in shaping environmental policies and practices, we can hold them accountable for their role in ecological harm. Acknowledging the influence of corporate forces empowers us to demand greater transparency and sustainable practices from these entities.
  • Acknowledge Historical Injustices: Accurate attribution requires us to confront the historical legacies of imperialism, colonialism, and exploitative practices that have led to the environmental crisis. This entails recognizing how past actions continue to shape the present ecological challenges, particularly in marginalized communities.
  • Address Systemic Issues: Accurate attribution calls for a deeper examination of systemic issues, such as capitalist economic structures and unequal power dynamics, that perpetuate environmental degradation. It prompts us to question the prioritization of profit over sustainability and advocate for transformative changes in our economic systems.
  • Embrace Indigenous Wisdom: Indigenous communities, with their long-standing relationships with the land, hold valuable knowledge and practices for sustainable living.
  • Foster Global Cooperation: Accurate attribution encourages international cooperation to tackle issues like climate change and biodiversity loss, recognizing that the impact of environmental decisions extends beyond national borders.


  • The term corporatocene serves as a more fitting descriptor for the current epoch, highlighting the role of corporate forces in shaping the earth’s ecological and climate systems. The West’s historical imperial legacy, coupled with corporate greed, remains the greatest threat to humanity and the environment. By acknowledging the true culprits and holding them accountable, we can pave the way for informed and effective solutions to address the ongoing planetary crisis.

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