A(S)CENE is a University of Vermont (UVM) based weblog dedicated to discussions of the role of the arts, media, and culture in addressing the multiple crises of the Anthropocene — the geologically defined “Human Era” with its interlinked social and ecological challenges, including impending climate change, biodiversity decline, deforestation and desertification, ocean acidification, bioaccumulation of toxins through ecosystems, as well as gross social inequalities, anticipated movements of refugee populations, and the like.
The Anthropocene is the “scene” of industrial humanity’s ascendance to the role of a leading biogeological force (thus “Anthropo(s)cene”). Critics are correct that humanity — the Anthropos — has never been a unified planetary agent, and that understanding the causes of these crises requires more nuanced analysis of sociopolitical, economic, and technological arrangements, from colonialism, capitalism, and militarism to ideologies of infinite growth and consumer abundance. But as use of the term “Anthropocene” spreads, it seems the terminological train has already left the station. The point is that humanity’s place on earth is dependent on its capacity to maintain viable relations with the other inhabitants of this planet. On a global scale, that capacity has yet to be built, so the “scene” for change remains wide open.
The arts and humanities have a vital role to play in building that capacity. They can do this through encouraging, disseminating, and motivating changes in human perception, valuation, and practice that could bring about a more sustainable relationship between human communities and global ecologies. A(S)CENE focuses on how they can do that, with a particular interest in what we can or are doing at the University of Vermont.
A(S)CENE began as a blog space for the Spring 2014 graduate course “Environment, Science, and Society in the Anthropocene: Scholarly and Public Interventions in Critical Times.” After the conclusion of that course, it became a space for sharing news about the interdisciplinary think-group BASTA! (Bridging the Arts, Sciences, and Theory for the Anthropocene), formed by a group of faculty and students at UVM with friends and professional colleagues in the Burlington area. With the decision to dedicate the 2016-19 Steven Rubenstein Professorship to “the eco-arts, media, and culture,” A(S)CENE has become a space to share news about how the environmental arts and humanities, at UVM and elsewhere, are contributing to the building of a more socially and ecologically viable world.
A(S)CENE discussions are open to all. A(S)CENE is managed by Adrian Ivakhiv, Steven Rubenstein Professor for Environment and Natural Resources. Comments and proposed blog submissions can be directed to him.
Photo above taken in Prypiat, Chernobyl Zone, October, 2016