Notes on a Planthroposcene
Although Natasha Myers wrote the article “How to grow liveable worlds: Ten (not-so-easy) steps for life in the Planthroposcene” before COVID 19, her writing contains interesting ideas for those interested in the Anthropocene and human impact in a post Coronavirus world.
Architecture is complicit in the Anthropocene’s existence, at its core it produces objects that provide human shelter, shelter from the chaos of nature. Human need sits at the centre of architecture’s presence as a discipline, and historically locates humanity at the centre of everything. As humans began to assemble and urbanise, the threat of nature became less a problem as the built environment pushed nature out onto the periphery of human settlement. Over the twentieth century, architecture began to completely block out what little trace of nature remained by producing mechanically conditioned and hermetically sealed internal environments. Once human shelter and habitats became conditionable, nature became redundant. Through a desire to protect the human and enable humanity to thrive, architecture unknowingly helped shape the Anthropocene. Architecture is only now starting to understand and engage with the impact of human destruction of nature and our exploitation of planetary resources.
While Natasha Myers targets Capitalism and Colonialism as the two human ideologies responsible for the Anthropocencene, architecture must also acknowledge some responsibility. While architecture generally relies on the dominant political-economic condition it operates within, at times it has attempted to help shape it, for instance, the early twentieth-century modernist obsession with mass production. To survive, the majority of architects have no alternative but to engage in state-led economic systems that “sustainably” operate by managing nature through economics. As a result, sustainable architecture imagines architecture alongside nature as a self-funding resource and therefore commodifiable through scientific study. Additionally, architecture is complicit in projects of colonisation, where buildings destroy habitats and become weaponised in state-led land grabs, for instance, the Israeli settlements. So while Myers does not mention architecture, it is part of the conversation.
While Myers’ suggestion that we talk to and worship plants is an extreme suggestion, it shines a light on architecture’s compliance in maintaining the dominant scientific worldview status-quo, one that seeks to measure.