737318 Social ecology of the Anthropocene

Semester hours
Lecturer (assistant)
Winiwarter, Verena , Schmid, Martin
Offered in
Wintersemester 2021/22
Languages of instruction


Is the Holocene past and the earth entering a new geological epoch? Are we living in the "Anthropocene"? These questions have been discussed for about 20 years now, not only in the natural sciences, but also in the media and the public. The scientific controversy has focused strongly on the timing of the beginning of such a new epoch. This will also be a topic of this lecture course. However, we will focus more on what this means for our understanding of sustainability. How can the relationship between society and nature be conceptualized when humans are declared a "geological force" - comparable to plate tectonics? What can be said historically about when and how mankind got into a situation that many are now trying to describe with the term "Anthropocene"? Does this imply a new form of responsibility towards nature or, on the contrary, does it legitimize even more, even deeper technical interventions?

Previous knowledge expected

Objective (expected results of study and acquired competences)

After successful completion of the course:
•students are familiar with the controversy surrounding the term and idea of an "Anthropocene" and are able to critically evaluate the reasons for the very different time frame of its start
•students learn about the essential anthropogenic processes and their effects on both ecosystems and society as well as about the role of technology for the extent and effectiveness of anthropogenic interventions since the “Neolithic Revolution”
•students become familiar with the basics of Earth System Science as well as with socio-ecological and historical approaches, and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of systemic approaches for sustainability research.
You can find more details like the schedule or information about exams on the course-page in BOKUonline.