Framing the Anthropocene: Educating for Sustainability

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As the concept of the Anthropocene as an epoch marking humankind’s power as a geophysical force gathers momentum, sustainability educators will be confronted by conflicting interpretations of its significance. More than a geological epoch, the Anthropocene marks a turning point for cultural, spiritual, and political ways of moving forward in confronting and framing humankind’s impact on earth systems. In this article, I examine the frames and rhetorics surrounding the use of the term the Anthropocene and their implications for sustainability education across several disciplines. Through the use of ecolinguistics and critical discourse analysis, I argue that analysis of the framing of the Anthropocene provides a critical tool for examining interpretations and approaches to what it means to be in the midst of an epoch in which humankind’s impact on the planet merits a new geologic time frame. An examination of frames across disciplines found that the Anthropocene is characterized both positively and negatively, with some scholars embracing the opportunities for continued growth while others warn of planetary boundaries and rupture from the previously calm Holocene.


This article was originally published in Language & Ecology, 2017-2018 issue.

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International Ecolinguistics Association