CRITICAL ZONE – Tagung 21./ 22. Feb 2019

A trans- and interdisciplinary conference at the University of Hamburg

Whilst, led by obvious geo- and biopolitical interests, a fierce fight over the existence and dimension of human-made climate change is taking place in the political arena, earth is acting unimpressed. Nevertheless, events like droughts, floodings, famines, melting glaciers and the extinction of species are striking us so directly that it seems impossible to clutch at the distancing dichotomy of nature and culture. Based on the measurable and visible extent of human impact on earth geo sciences already discuss a new geological era: the anthropocene. However, its epistemes – like those of other sciences and humanities – seem disposable. Instead of pursuing dichotomous world views or despairingly taking the escape route of climate change denial into an imagined parallel world, Bruno Latour (2017, 2018) proposes to set out for the ‘critical zone’. The ‘critical zone’ is the thin near-surface layer of earth between the bottom of the groundwater and the tops of the trees. Ther e, rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms constantly interact and constitute through highly complex transformational processes the conditions for all terrestrial life. In this zone earth displays its agency relevant to humans. Now it is essential to explore this new territory to understand the inseparable interweaving of humans and terrestrial processes.

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