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Infrastructure, public policy, and the Anthropocene [podcast]

On today’s episode of The Oxford Comment, we discuss the state of human infrastructure in the Anthropocene with a particular focus on how research can best be used to inform public policy.  

First, we welcomed Patrick Harris, co-editor-in-chief of the new transdisciplinary journal, Oxford Open Infrastructure and Health, to speak about the aims and scopes of OOIH, how OOIH is poised to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene, and the kind of research the editors are seeking. We then interviewed Jonathan Pickering, co-author of The Politics of the Anthropocene, the winner of the 2019 Clay Morgan Award Committee for Best Book in Environmental Political Theory. We spoke with him about how the shift from the Holocene to the Anthropocene has affected our core infrastructure systems and how good governance can help us mitigate the many challenges we’ll face in the future.

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Upon the initial launch of Oxford Open Infrastructure and Health, co-editors Evelyne de Leeuw and Patrick Harris penned this blog post on the OUPblog, introducing the journal and detailing how OOIH will provide a link between infrastructure and both (inter)planetary and human health.

OOIH’s opening editorial, also written by the co-editors, elaborates on their vision for OOIH, provided greater context for the intersection between infrastructure and well-being, and presented the foundations of what future research published by the journal will need to include.

Human activities have a decisive causal influence on the Earth system, but to date the responses of the social sciences to the challenge have been inadequate. It is necessary to do better. Delve into the scholarship of our guest, Jonathan Pickering, and his co-author John S. Dryzek as they unravel the good, the bad, and the inescapable of our new epoch in this chapter from their book, The Politics of the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene will not recede, and the central question of environmental management will be whether we can develop ways to reflexively and sustainably manage ecosystems, habitats, and human needs. This chapter examines four possible normative underpinnings for such management, from The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory.

The Anthropocene has emerged as a powerful new narrative of the relationship between humans and nature. Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction draws on the work of geologists, geographers, environmental scientists, archaeologists, and humanities scholars to explain the science and wider implications of the Anthropocene. This chapter explores why we should accept that a new chapter of Earth history might indeed be unfolding, with humans playing a leading role.

This response to the editors’ essay by Phil McManus offered a clarification on what is termed infrastructure, and examined the history of urbanist programs as a means to inform today’s relationship between health and infrastructure as their intersection is more clearly defined.

The Anthropocene is not only a geological event but also a political, philosophical, and theological one. This chapter, from Call Your “Mutha’”: A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene, proposes that key to its undoing is decolonization, including of lands, waters, minds, and spirit, by drawing upon unjustly discredited knowledges, including Indigenous ontological conceptions of spiritual meanings that recognize the awareness and being of all terrestrial life, the inherent value of matter and the agency of Nature-Earth.

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