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Climate Change and the Anthropocene, l'X & Columbia University lecture

"The Anthropocenic Sublime: a Critique", lecture organized by École Polytechnique and Columbia University on December, 15th at Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard College - Columbia University, New York City, is the third lecture of Science, Technology, and Society, Discussion Series launched in New York this September.

This interdisciplinary Discussion Series featuring scholars from École Polytechnique and Columbia University takes place alternately in New York City and Paris. The therd lecture, discussion, and reception was held on December 15th, 2016, 5pm - 7pm (Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard College - Columbia University) with further events throughout the year.

This lecture on Climate Change and the Anthropocene organized by École Polytechnique and Columbia University in the framework of Alliance program was supported by the Embassy of France in the United States.


- Deborah Coen,Professor, Department of History, Columbia University

- Adam Sobel, Professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University

- Frankie Pavia, Ph.D. student at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Keynote speaker

Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, Researcher at CNRS - Centre Koyré

Although staggering, spectacular or grandiloquent, the Anthropocene concept is not a scientific discovery. It does not refer to a recent advance in our understanding of the functioning of the earth system. The Anthropocene is just a stratigraphic division period. Its strength is not conceptual, scientific or even heuristic: it is primarily aesthetic.

The concept of Anthropocene is a brilliant way to rename and summarize some fundamental results of earth system sciences. It captures the idea that the processes that humanity has triggered have such inertia that the earth is leaving the climate regime that prevailed during the Holocene. Unlike the term "environmental crisis" which designates a brief ordeal whose outcome is imminent, the Anthropocene refers to a point of no return. It is a geological bifurcation in the history of the planet Earth, without any foreseeable return to the ‘normal state’ of the Holocene. The strength of the Anthropocene lies precisely in this extraordinary encounter between human history and the history of the earth: two centuries of human activity at most were enough to cause an alteration comparable to the great upheaval at the end of the Mesozoic era 65 million years ago. The Anthropocene discourse plays on this aesthetic of the sudden, of the event, of the bifurcation. This is why the Anthropocene has such an evocative power. What we are experiencing is not a simple "environmental crisis", but a geological manmade revolution. If we do not know exactly what the Anthropocene will mean for us (the computer simulations of the Earth-system are uncertain), one thing is sure: we entered it, with no hope of escape, caught in the chaotic vortex of actions and feedback linking industrial capitalism with the earth system.

See the full video webcast of the Climate Change and the Anthropocene Lecture here.

Learn more about the lecture "Racism and Public Health" held on November, 14th at Columbia Global Center, Paris.

Learn more about the opening lecture of the Discussion Series "Science, Technology, and the Logics, of Preventative War" held on September, 13th, at La Maison Française, Columbia University, New York.