Shock and Awe: The Anthropocene in the Age of Trump

Shock and Awe: The Anthropocene in the Age of Trump

The Anthropocene is a proposed geological time period that marks the effects of human activity on the planet Earth.  According to one concept, the Anthropocene means relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

A recent book, The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us by Christophe Boneuil & Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, the authors explore the environmental crises, but also a new geological period caused by human activity over the past two centuries.

The Trump administrated should be feared in the context of the environmental crisis, global warming, and climate change.  Although the current crisis pre-dates the Trump era, their policies, and plans for the environment, energy, transportation will re-create the shock and awe military doctrine that has destroyed many places on the earth.  Unfortunately, Trump and his associates are the Great Denialists, and have promised to cut back on much of the progress that has been made in the last decade.

Yet, we must admit that the “progress” cited above is meager given the disregard to scientific evidence that the planet is changing in accelerating ways including temperature change, increased air pollution, polar ice melting, glacial retreat, sea level rise, species extinction, changes in the migration patterns of animals, effects of water changes and extreme temperatures on plants.

Planetary conditions have not improved substantially, even with the emphasis by the Obama administration on energy alternatives and environmental protection.

There are many actors that the finger should be pointed at that underly the utter damage that has been done to the Earth.  Energy consumption, especially in advanced capitalist societies (such as the US and Britain) has increased at exponential rates since the 1800s (which was the time that atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen identifies as the beginning of the Anthropocene).

Boneuil & Fressoz name 90 companies that have been responsible for 63% of global CO2 and methane emissions.  Yet, as they point out, books are written about the “ecological crisis” but do not mention one of these companies.  Chevron, Exxon and BP are among biggest contributors to this mess. Little mention is made of capitalization, war or even the United States.

Trump has said he’s going to bring back coal.  Actually, coal has never left our energy shopping list.  Coal, which is less efficient than oil or gas, is still what we consume at great rates, and in fact, it was at a peak in 2014.  Imagine.  There is not much Trump can do on this front, so don’t make it an issue.

What should be made an issue of is the shock and awe that is created by these 90 companies, and the military-industrial-complex led by the United States, which spends about 611 billion dollars (2016) on its military machine, and continues to wage war, especially in the middle east.  It takes the following 9 countries in order of spending to equal the amount spent by the United States:

  1. China (215)
  2. Russia (69)
  3. Saudi Arabia (63)
  4. India (55)
  5. France (55
  6. United Kingdom (48)
  7. Japan (46)
  8. Germany (41)
  9. South Korea (36)

If you want to call out countries that are contributing to the environmental crisis on the basis of its military, look no further than to the United States.

If you want to call out companies (in the United States), here is a list to get you started.  Here are the top 10.

  1. American Electric Power
  2. Duke Energy
  3. Southern Company
  4. United States Government (own the Tennessee Valley Authority)
  5. Berkshire Hathaway
  6. Ameren Corporation
  7. Luminant Generation Company
  8. First Energy
  9. AES Corporation
  10. Excel Energy Inc

And here are few other top polluters of the Earth.

  • ExxonMobil
  • BP
  • U.S. Steel
  • ArcelorMittal
  • Koch Industries

Why do you think we need to be active in fighting against the Trump administration?  Just look to his cabinet appointees.  Secretary of State, former head of ExxonMobil.  EPA Administrator, former attorney general of Oklahoma who sued the EPA more than 20 times.  The list goes on and on.  Many, if not all, have deep connections to the companies that have caused the most damage to the Earth’s environment, and to the rapid way in which the climate is changed.

What do you think?  Shock or Awe?  Both.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University