Anthropocene Research Collective for Human, Animal and Interspecies Collaborations

Reflections on Governance in the Anthropocene

Reflections from Cebuan Bliss on our reading group session the 20th of January 2022 with Frank Biermann

The ARCHAIC was delighted to host Frank Biermann, professor of Global Sustainability Governance with the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, for a reading group on the topic of governance in the Anthropocene. Professor Biermann and the group examined the quandaries we must navigate if governance is to become more just and legitimate.

Transformative change in the Anthropocene

Epistemologically, we need to be inclusive of different forms of knowledge, taking into account that there are multiple ways of knowing. The group discussed how this relates to notions of sovereignty and subsidiarity. Transformative change is required which acknowledges inherent power dynamics in global governance and which is inclusive of human and non-human voices.

Tools at our disposal to promote a transformative change agenda, according to Professor Biermann, include earth system law and a more challenge-driven science agenda.

Do you want your Earth sunny side up?

What appears at first glance to be objective science can be inherently normative. Take, for example, the planetary boundaries or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is not science, it is about politics, Professor Biermann asserts.

This raises the questions: how do we want to live and how do we decide how we want it?

Some approaches to global goal setting we discussed included intergovernmentalism, pluralism and scientism. Overall, it seems, we should approach our role in science and as global citizens with humility and hope. It from this perspective we can begin to navigate the ethical and political quandaries of the Anthropocene.

The ARCHAIC reading group was certainly engaged by the issues raised and we thank Professor Biermann for joining us.

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