The world of business on an Anthropocene Earth

Posted by lcb14 at Jun 24, 2019 12:15 PM |
On the 3rd-5th June 2019, the University of Leicester hosted one of the world’s most renowned scholars, Professor Bruno Latour, in a three-day conversation on the Anthropocene, this event inaugurating the newly formed Anthropocene Research Group at Leicester.
The world of business on an Anthropocene Earth

The speakers at the event; Credit: Stuart Hollis

The Anthropocene, a term and concept created by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, describes the epoch of geological time during which human actions have had a dramatic effect on the Earth and its ecosystem, on climate and on the very evolution of the strata. While researchers in the international Anthropocene Working Group are still working to characterize and define the Anthropocene, this new Leicester-based group is working to address and seek alternatives to the impact that is being caused by human-driven activities – these are driving the Earth System to a new and different planetary state, through perturbation of the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and landscape and biosphere changes, with long-term geological consequences.

As befits a highly interdisciplinary grouping, the Anthropocene Research Group had a diverse array of support: from the University of Leicester School of Business, the Leicester Institute for Advance Studies and the Economic and Social Research Council, while Vietnam Airlines sponsored the flight of 5 Early Career Researchers from Vietnam and South East Asia to attend the opening lecture.

Professor Bruno Latour
Professor Bruno Latour; Credit: Stuart Hollis

The speakers on the opening day were challenged to address the following questions:

  • What does it mean to do business at the time of the Anthropocene?
  • Which business infrastructures and procedures can be put in place to decrease our collective impact on the environment?

Professor Latour’s presentation on the Anthropocene centred on the science and politics of the Earth. He drew a parallel between two periods in history in which the world was seen as moving: that associated with the profound (and then revolutionary, and highly controversial) discoveries of Galileo, and that associated with the more contemporary scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, as they proposed their ‘Gaia’ hypothesis of an Earth sustained by life, and how that now links with the case being made for the Anthropocene as a new and unprecedented phase of our planet’s history.

His Excellency Tran Ngoc An
His Excellency Tran Ngoc An; Credit: Stuart Hollis

Professor Latour’s talk received an elegantly supportive response from the Ambassador for Vietnam, also present, emphasizing the importance of intercultural and international relations in developing this new understanding.

That opening was followed by John Palmesino and Steve Brown how architecture and business schools respectively could and should adapt to the new conditions of the Anthropocene. Mark Williams then showed how the world is no longer dominated by natural ecosystems with humans living within these, but rather it is dominated by human systems, enclosing the modified remains of natural ecosystems. Chris Schinckus looked at how financial technology affected the Earth: no longer simply a function provided by financial institutions, the massive, energy-hungry computational power it needs, contributes to climate change. Marta Gasparin made the case for slowing down: Inspired by the slow food movement, slow design aims to use local sustainable materials within a local heritage, as an alternative to the fast-paced and destructive ways of most modern business. Daniel Neyland concluded these ‘provocations’ by reflecting on how business-focussed academics should aim to bring the Anthropocene into their research.

Science- and arts-based events followed. Jan Zalasiewicz launched a new book on the Anthropocene, a compilation of a decade’s international studies. At a reception (with Slow Pale Ale by Framework Brewery to help proceedings), two artworks were premiered: the Anthropocene Square Metre, a collaboration between Jan Zalasiewicz, the Vietnam-based designer Claire Driscoll, and the French artist Anne-Sophie Milon; and, a map with “100 names for the Anthropocene” by Anne-Sophie Milon and Clémence Hallé.

The Anthropocene Square Metre
The Anthropocene Square Metre; Credit: Work Room Four

100 names for the Anthropocene
100 names for the Anthropocene; Credit: Stuart Hollis

On the second day, participants clambered over the ancient rocks of Charnwood Forest and the urban geology of Nottingham, and saw the many-millions-strong specimen collections at the British Geological Survey. In the evening, came the British premiere of the major new film Anthropocene, the Human Epoch at the LCB depot, which sparked vivid discussion.

British Geological Survey
British Geological Survey; Credit: Work Room Four

Movie Discussion at LCB Depot
Movie Discussion at LCB Depot

The third day of this “Anthropocene festival” explored the next steps forward in this research. The next event is already in the calendar: it will be on the 2nd November, 2019, and will be devoted to the urban biosphere of Leicester.

Watch the event - The world of business on an Anthropocene Earth, 3rd June 2019

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