As the number of academic manuscripts explicitly referencing the Anthropocene increases, a theme that seems to tie them all together is the general lack of continuity on how we should define the Anthropocene. In an attempt to formalize the concept, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) is working to identify, in the stratigraphic record, a Global Stratigraphic Section and Point (GSSP) or golden spike for a mid-twentieth century Anthropocene starting point. Rather than clarifying our understanding of the Anthropocene, we argue that the AWG’s effort to provide an authoritative definition undermines the original intent of the concept, as a call-to-arms for future sustainable management of local, regional, and global environments, and weakens the concept’s capacity to fundamentally reconfigure the established boundaries between the social and natural sciences. To sustain the creative and productive power of the Anthropocene concept, we argue that it is best understood as a “boundary object,” where it can be adaptable enough to incorporate multiple viewpoints, but robust enough to be meaningful within different disciplines. Here, we provide two examples from our work on the deep history of anthropogenic seascapes, which demonstrate the power of the Anthropocene to stimulate new thinking about the entanglement of humans and non-humans, and for building interdisciplinary solutions to modern environmental issues.
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