Soriano C. (2020) Epistemological limitations of Earth system science to confront the Anthropocene crisis. The Anthropocene Review. doi:10.1177/2053019620978430


Our current understanding of the Earth System has significantly improved in recent years. As a result, the Anthropocene is seen as a major planetary emergency not only for humans but for other living organisms too. However, Earth System science lacks a proper integration of the social or human side and the natural side of the Earth System into an organic theoretical corpus. Without such an integration a comprehensive understanding of the Earth System is not possible, and the practical actions undertaken to face the Anthropocene crisis will only alleviate some of its effects but the planetary emergency will keep deepening. The epistemological reason underlying disagreement between natural and social sciences is that Earth System scientists understand the natural side of the Earth System and the Anthropocene from a dialectic and materialist perspective, whereas they understand the social side of the studied object from a positivist and idealist perspective. Such a dualist approach hampers a proper understanding and the practical actions aimed at transcending the planetary crisis. By consciously adopting a dialectic and materialist epistemic paradigm under which both natural and social realms are studied and understood, Earth System scientists would be able to identify the internal contradictions of the studied objects and, accordingly, to address the research in the suitable directions. In this way, structural solutions and not merely conjunctural measures to face the Anthropocene crisis could be formulated.

Reference article

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