The Anthropocene: A Reading List

In preparation for teaching a course entitled, “History, the Environment, and the Global Anthropocene,” I thought that it might be a good idea to compile an interdisciplinary reading list on the Anthropocene. The list that I decided to create is not a comprehensive. Rather, it is a set of “must read” items for anybody who wishes to begin learning about the Anthropocene.

While the reading list below is relatively compact, it can still be daunting to engage with this growing body of literature. Since so much of the Anthropocene literature is engaged with a few big conversations–building on each other with each consecutive publication–I recommend that that the best way to get started is to read these items in chronological order.

Albert, Rosa M. “Anthropocene and Early Human Behavior.” The Holocene 25, no. 10 (October 1, 2015): 1542–52. doi:10.1177/0959683615588377.

Arias-Maldonado, Manuel. “Rethinking Sustainability in the Anthropocene.” Environmental Politics 22, no. 3 (May 1, 2013): 428–46. doi:10.1080/09644016.2013.765161.

Asouti, Eleni, Ceren Kabukcu, Chantel E. White, Ian Kuijt, Bill Finlayson, and Cheryl Makarewicz. “Early Holocene Woodland Vegetation and Human Impacts in the Arid Zone of the Southern Levant.” The Holocene 25, no. 10 (October 1, 2015): 1565–80. doi:10.1177/0959683615580199.

Barnosky, A. D. “Palaeontological Evidence for Defining the Anthropocene.” Geological Society, London, Special Publications 395, no. 1 (May 14, 2014): 149–65. doi:10.1144/SP395.6.

Bhaduri, Anik, Janos Bogardi, Jan Leentvaar, and Sina Marx. The Global Water System in the Anthropocene: Challenges for Science and Governance. Springer, 2014.

Biermann, Frank. Earth System Governance: World Politics in the Anthropocene. MIT Press, 2014.

Braje, Todd J., and Jon M. Erlandson. “Looking Forward, Looking Back: Humans, Anthropogenic Change, and the Anthropocene.” Anthropocene, When Humans Dominated the Earth: Archeological Perspectives on the Anthropocene, 4 (December 2013): 116–21. doi:10.1016/j.ancene.2014.05.002.

Brewington, Seth, Megan Hicks, Ágústa Edwald, Árni Einarsson, Kesara Anamthawat-Jónsson, Gordon Cook, Philippa Ascough, et al. “Islands of Change vs. Islands of Disaster: Managing Pigs and Birds in the Anthropocene of the North Atlantic.” The Holocene 25, no. 10 (October 1, 2015): 1676–84. doi:10.1177/0959683615591714.

Butzer, Karl. “Anthropocene as an Evolving Paradigm.” The Holocene 25, no. 10 (October 1, 2015): 1539–41. doi:10.1177/0959683615594471.

Castree, Noel. “Geography and the Anthropocene II: Current Contributions.” Geography Compass 8, no. 7 (July 1, 2014): 450–63. doi:10.1111/gec3.12140.

———. “The Anthropocene and Geography III: Future Directions.” Geography Compass 8, no. 7 (July 1, 2014): 464–76. doi:10.1111/gec3.12139.

———. “The Anthropocene and Geography I: The Back Story.” Geography Compass 8, no. 7 (July 1, 2014): 436–49. doi:10.1111/gec3.12141.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (2009): 197–222.

Crumley, Carole, Sofia Laparidou, Monica Ramsey, and Arlene M. Rosen. “A View from the Past to the Future: Concluding Remarks on the ‘The Anthropocene in the Longue Durée.’” The Holocene 25, no. 10 (October 1, 2015): 1721–23. doi:10.1177/0959683615594473.

Crutzen, P. J. “The ‘Anthropocene.’” In Journal de Physique IV (Proceedings), 12:1–5, 2002.

Crutzen, P. J., and W. Steffen. “How Long Have We Been in the Anthropocene Era?” Climatic Change 61, no. 3 (2003): 251–57.

Dalby, S. “Anthropocene Geopolitics: Globalisation, Empire, Environment and Critique.” Geography Compass 1, no. 1 (2007): 103–18.

Davis, Robert. “Inventing the Present: Historical Roots of the Anthropocene.” Earth Sciences History 30, no. 1 (December 2011): 63–84.

Edgeworth, Matt, Jeffrey Benjamin, Bruce Clarke, Zoe Crossland, Ewa Domanska, Alice Claire Gorman, Paul Graves-Brown, et al. “Archaeology of the Anthropocene.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1, no. 1 (2014): 73–132.

Ellis, Erle C. “Anthropogenic Transformation of the Terrestrial Biosphere.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (March 13, 2011): 1010–35. doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0331.

Ellis, Michael A., and Zev Trachtenberg. “Which Anthropocene Is It to Be? Beyond Geology to a Moral and Public Discourse.” Earth’s Future 2, no. 2 (February 1, 2014): 122–25. doi:10.1002/2013EF000191.

Hamilton, Clive, François Gemenne, and Christophe Bonneuil. The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch. Routledge, 2015.

Heringman, Noah. “Deep Time at the Dawn of the Anthropocene.” Representations 129, no. 1 (2015): 56–85. doi:10.1525/rep.2015.129.1.56.

Jonsson, Fredrik Albritton. “The Industrial Revolution in the Anthropocene.” The Journal of Modern History 84, no. 3 (September 1, 2012): 679–96. doi:10.1086/666049.

Klingan, Katrin, Ashkan Sepahvand, Christoph Rosol, and Bernd M. Scherer, eds. Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain Vapor Ray. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2015.

Lewis, Simon L., and Mark A. Maslin. “Defining the Anthropocene.” Nature 519, no. 7542 (March 12, 2015): 171–80. doi:10.1038/nature14258.

Lorimer, Jamie. “Multinatural Geographies for the Anthropocene.” Progress in Human Geography 36, no. 5 (October 1, 2012): 593–612. doi:10.1177/0309132511435352.

Malm, Andreas, and Alf Hornborg. “The Geology of Mankind? A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative.” The Anthropocene Review 1, no. 1 (January 7, 2014): 62-69. doi:10.1177/2053019613516291.

Meybeck, Michel. “Riverine Quality at the Anthropocene: Propositions for Global Space and Time Analysis, Illustrated by the Seine River.” Aquatic Sciences-Research Across Boundaries 64, no. 4 (2002): 376–93.

Moore, Jason W. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. New York: Verso, 2015.*

Purdy, Jedediah. After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene. Harvard, 2015.

Robin, L., and W. Steffen. “History for the Anthropocene.” History Compass 5, no. 5 (2007): 1694–1719.

Rockström, Johan, Will Steffen, Kevin Noone, Åsa Persson, F. Stuart Chapin, Eric F. Lambin, Timothy M. Lenton, et al. “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity.” Nature 461, no. 7263 (2009): 472–75.

Ruddiman, William F. “The Early Anthropogenic Hypothesis: Challenges and Responses.” Reviews of Geophysics 45, no. 4 (December 1, 2007): RG4001. doi:10.1029/2006RG000207.

Scranton, Roy. Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization. San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2015.

Steffen, W., J. Grinevald, P. Crutzen, and J. McNeill. “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (2011): 842–67.

Steffen, Will, Wendy Broadgate, Lisa Deutsch, Owen Gaffney, and Cornelia Ludwig. “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration.” The Anthropocene Review 2, no. 1 (January 16, 2015), 81-98. doi:10.1177/2053019614564785.

Steffen, Will, J Crutzen, and John R McNeill. “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?” Ambio 36, no. 8 (December 2007): 614–21.

Steffen, Will, A. Sanderson, P.D. Tyson, J. Jäger, P.A. Matson, F. Oldfield, K. Richardson, H.J. Schellnhuber, B.L. Turner II, and R.J. Wasson. Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure. Berlin: Springer, 2005.

Steffen, Will, A.A. Persson, L. Deutsch, J. Zalasiewicz, M. Williams, K. Richardson, C. Crumley, et al. “The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship.” AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 2011, 1–23.

Thomas, Julia Adeney. “History and Biology in the Anthropocene: Problems of Scale, Problems of Value.” The American Historical Review 119, no. 5 (December 1, 2014): 1587–1607. doi:10.1093/ahr/119.5.1587.

Tickell, C. “Societal Responses to the Anthropocene.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (2011): 926–32.

Vince, Gaia. Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2014.

Williams, Mark, Jan Zalasiewicz, P. K. Haff, Christian Schwägerl, Anthony D. Barnosky, and Erle C. Ellis. “The Anthropocene Biosphere.” 2, no. 3 The Anthropocene Review (June 18, 2015): 196-219. doi:10.1177/2053019615591020.

Zalasiewicz, Jan, Colin N. Waters, Mark Williams, Anthony D. Barnosky, Alejandro Cearreta, Paul Crutzen, Erle Ellis, et al. “When Did the Anthropocene Begin? A Mid-Twentieth Century Boundary Level Is Stratigraphically Optimal.” Quaternary International 383 (October 2015): 196–203. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.11.045.

Zalasiewicz, Jan, Mark Williams, Richard Fortey, Alan Smith, Tiffany L. Barry, Angela L. Coe, Paul R. Bown, et al. “Stratigraphy of the Anthropocene.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (March 13, 2011): 1036–55. doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0315.

Zalasiewicz, Jan, Mark Williams, Alan Haywood, and Michael Ellis. “The Anthropocene: A New Epoch of Geological Time?” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (March 13, 2011): 835–41.

Zalasiewicz, Jan, Mark Williams, A. Smith, T. L. Barry, A. L. Coe, P. R. Bown, P. Brenchley, et al. “Are We Now Living in the Anthropocene.” GSA Today 18, no. 2 (2008): 4–8.


*Added as a revision on 30 December 2015.

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