The natural contract in the Anthropocene

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.4, 2018


The natural contract in the Anthropocene (Abstract)


Thomas Heyd and Bertrand Guillaume


In view of humanity’s vast and accelerating environmental impacts on the planet in its more recent past it has been proposed to think of this period as a new geologic epoch called “Anthropocene”. While some suppose that our present situation justifies large-scale, corrective interventions, Michel Serres has proposed “a contract with nature”, which, to the contrary, calls for a reduction in our interventions on the planet. Although there are difficulties in engaging in a contract with something lacking autonomous agency, rationality, and sentience, the idea of a natural contract does make sense. It offers a richly suggestive reconception of socio-political relationships between human society and the natural world, and has enough precedents to serve as a source of inspiration and guidance for the urgently needed transformation of our approach to the natural environment.