Rewording the Anthropocene

I just read two articles about the Anthropocene and was intrigued to see how many new words the authors coined to express important ideas. By way of explanation the Anthropocene is the proposed name for the geologic epoch we now live in, an era in which humans have begun leaving a permanent imprint in the geologic record.

Even the name Anthropocene is a clever new word, and like all important new words it has done its work well, it has sparked a vibrant conversation about the extent of human impacts on Planet Earth. The scale of these human impacts are unprecedented and stretch the imagination to its limits and this is the terrain where new words can help us comprehend and speak about the incomprehensible.

One article by Robert Macfarlane adds new words like steig, apex-guilt, shadowtime, plasticene, ecosystemic, hyperobject, blaec, capitalocene, anthrobcene, anthropomeme, and stuplimity. And another article by Glenn Albrecht speaks of symbiocene, solastalgia, corruptalism, symbiomimicry, wood-wide-web, sumbiocracy, and sumbiophilia.

Not all these new words are elegant but they perfectly capture how important word-making skills become when we're exploring ideas at the limits of our knowledge, vocabulary, and imagination. Michelle Nijhuis echoed this same idea in her review of Language Making Nature a couple months ago. As we forge into the unknown we need to keep pushing language in new directions, we need to keep speaking of what's in front of us and not worry if some of the words look silly and fall by the wayside.