The Anthropocene refers to a geological time in which one species dominates the planet and has a huge, possibly irreversible, impact on it. That time is now, and the species is, of course, Homo sapiens. Geologists are not in agreement about the extent of this impact or even the point in history when a new geological age could be declared, but the current impact of humankind on the Earth is clearly substantial. Many argue that the more affluent, industrialised nations are largely to blame, due to their use of vast amounts of natural resources and the resulting impact on air quality and the composition of Earth ecosystems. The recent lockdowns, travel bans and disruptions of energy use associated with the current pandemic led to a drop in CO2 emissions and an improvement in air quality, leading many to see this as the virus-cloud’s silver lining. However, even this silver lining has a dark side: we know that zoonotic diseases (infectious diseases passed from animals to human beings) have been associated with climate change and changes to ecosystems, so it is quite possible that we might experience a re-emergence of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 in the future if environmental conditions continue to deteriorate.
Educators have an important role to play in this context, and UNESCO considers quality education for sustainable development as a key priority. The challenges associated with achieving a more global citizenship are not only affecting education but also all fields of culture. Visual artists are rethinking their relationship with communities, forms of life, social and natural environments, while art educators need to understand the notion of agency not simply from a human perspective (even though human agency definitely plays a role in the push towards more sustainability) but from multiple perspectives.
This online ‘exhibition’, Images from the Anthropocene, brings together a small collection of images produced by students following the MTL degree in Art and the MA in Social Practice Arts and Critical Education, both offered by the Department of Arts, Open Communities and Adult Education (Faculty of Education). They present different perspectives on our relationship with others and our environment, making reference to various themes and techniques they developed with the assistance of their lecturers in recent months.