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The Last Post

Michael Cronin
The Posthuman, by Rosi Braidotti, Polity Press, 180 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-0745641584 It’s our party and you can write what you want to, write what you want to. Timothy Garton Ash, on the fiftieth birthday of The New York Review of Books, was invited to do just that. He was asked to comment on what he felt had fundamentally changed in the world since the NYRB first appeared on the magazine racks in 1963. Seeing the magazine as a “lighthouse at the center of the Western world”, he wanted to show “how the world has changed under its steady illumination”. “Human rights” and a concern with same is what is first picked out under the sweeping beam of retrospection. He then sheds light on the rise and staggered fall of the US as “hyperpower”, the increased prominence of the Arab world, the inexorable ascent of China and the explosion of “digital opportunity”, the binary revolution that leaves expression gloriously unbound. Not a word, however, about the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Not a line about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. No melting ice. No rising sea levels. No acidic oceans. No species loss. For Garton Ash, all is gloriously quiet on the weather front. Our duty in this changing world, if we have one, is to “remain true to the core values of a modernized Enlightenment liberalism, Western in origin but universal in aspiration”. Rosi Braidotti was not invited to this particular bash but it is unlikely that she would have seen the journey to the lighthouse in quite the same way. Fundamental to her new work on the notion of the posthuman is that “modernized Enlightenment liberalism” is no longer effective or persuasive as a means of liberation. Central to her argument is an idea that she has borrowed from the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen and his collaborator, a marine biology specialist, Eugene F Stoermer, namely, the idea of the “Anthropocene”. Crutzen’s contention is that in the last three centuries, the effects of human action on the global environment have escalated. As a result, anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are very likely to significantly affect the climate for millenia to come. “It seems appropriate to assign the term ‘Anthropocene’ to the present […] human-dominated, geological epoch, supplementing the Holocene – the warm period of the past 10-12 millennia.” The Anthropocene is traced back to the latter half of…

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