004, School of Arts and Sciences
It is commonplace to see the epoch we are living through as one where humans have acquired a power to alter the biosphere in ways akin to a geological force. Yet to use the term Anthropocene raises more questions than it perhaps directly answers. When, why and how it began is matter of debate.
The earth may be unified in ecological terms but it is divided into nation states unequal in ecological impact. Many divisions of entitlement or status or wealth also mean it is best to view not only Homo sapiens collectively but ask who poses a larger threat and why.
Asia and Asians were critical as sources of labour and raw material in the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th century. But unlike the Age of Empire Asian nations are important as actors. How they respond to the challenges of global environmental change also hinges in part on remaking the global economic order. It also may entail new more holistic ideas of development and equity that call into question older still influential notions of conquest of nature.
Mahesh Rangarajan is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Haryana. He studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford. He has taught at Delhi, Jadavpur, Krea, Cornell universities and at the NCBS Bengaluru. His books include Fencing the Forest (1996), Nature and Nation (2015) and co-edited works such as Battles over Nature (2003), Environmental History as if Nature Existed (2010), Shifting Ground (2014) and At Nature's Edge (2018). In 2021 he was elected foreign member of the American Historical Association, the fourth Indian to be made a member.