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Materiality and the ontological turn in the anthropocene : establishing a dialogue between law, anthropology and eco-philosophy

Vermeylen, Saskia (2017) Materiality and the ontological turn in the anthropocene : establishing a dialogue between law, anthropology and eco-philosophy. In: Environmental Law and Governance for the Anthropocene. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp. 137-162. ISBN 9781509906567

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Abstract

One of the earlier editorial pieces of the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment opened with the quote of the American anthropologist Margaret Mead ‘[w]e won’t have a society if we destroy the environment’. 1 Unfortunately, if we look into the evidence of biophysical signs, the threat of environmental breakdown is eminent,2 and humanity’s survival might indeed be under threat. Our ecological footprint on Earth is at such a scale that we find ourselves in a geological epoch called the Anthropocene, 3 characterised as it is by human terraforming of the Earth. 4 Our biosphere is sick and behaves like an infected organism; every living organism in the biosphere is declining. The evidence is increasingly clear: in a scientific study commissioned by the United Nations in 2005, it was reported that humans are responsible for the extinction of 50,000 – 55,000 species each year. 5