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Anthropocene’s approach to the Green Thought and focus on the Human/Nature binary fail to address capitalism’s role in natural patterns. Capitalocene, as an alternative, addresses capitalism as a system of power and production that has written itself in the environmental history long before the Industrial Revolution. It provides a better-informed outlook on the relationship society has with nature and addresses new ways to confront the problem of the climate crisis.
Jason Moore’s essay begins with the criticism of the Anthropocene’s outlook on environmental politics and ecological history. Firstly, the author questions Anthropocene naming humanity the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution, with little to no regard for class, capital, or imperialism. He examines the validity of singling out one process from 19th Century Britain as the beginning of the modern world (Moore 595). Then Moore identifies how the human/nature binary, inherent to the approach, has separated humanity from the web of life and become integral to the current public conversations about the environment.
Anthropocene’s focus on the Industrial Revolution ignores the earlier history of capitalism that originated in Columbus’s times. The Colombian exchange of plants, animals, and diseases between the Old and the New World has fundamentally altered environmental development (Moore 619). Capitalist forces of trade and colonization have played their part in natural evolution centuries before Industrialization. After the 1450s, socio-economic processes in Europe moved significantly faster, generating the idea of Cheap Nature as a source of cheap resources to satisfy the growing demand for capitalist processes. Historical capitalism is “a world-ecology of power, capital, and nature,” and the two cannot be organically separated at this point(Moore 595. In the following centuries, capitalism dominated human relationships with the environment by harvesting various resources to advance and maintain high labor productivity.
Anthropocene establishes the norm and the status quo in conversations about current relationships between humanity and the environment. Consecutively, perceiving the Industrial Revolution as the origin of capitalism and, by extension, its effects on nature is practically a given in the majority of studies across social sciences. Hence, the criticism of this periodization in Moore’s essay provides a significant insight into how changing the starting point for the historical period re-contextualizes the events included.
Moore chooses to remove the starting point of capitalism from the mechanization and the fuel of 19th Century Britain and assign it to the Americas’ conquest. The significance of such re-positioning cannot be overestimated, as he depicts how capitalist processes have been integrated into humanity’s relationships with nature long before the appearance of mass production. The Colombian exchange of life forms between continents was stimulated by accelerating competition between European empires. As a result of the Old-World countries aiming to extract the maximum of resources from the territories they controlled, the natural landscape has changed dramatically. Capitalism has tied itself with nature centuries before Industrialization, causing both the emergence of humanity’s harmful consumerist treatment of the environment and the massive life form exchange between continents.
In conclusion, the essay re-contextualizes the historical basis of our understanding of the relationship between capitalism and nature. Perceiving natural resources as cheap and easily accessible has enabled its’ overconsumption by society for centuries. Capitalist processes have become a part of the environment, and the continuous revision of these processes is required for any fruitful discussion of the ecological crisis to be possible.
Moore, Jason W. “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis”. The Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 44, no.3, 2017, pp. 594-630.