Published in  
April 2, 2020


A certain strand of anti-humanist thinking lays the blame for climate disruption squarely at the feet of humans.

In a volatile nutshell, the core idea of this anti-humanism is this: if humans did not overpopulate the planet, destroy ecosystems, commit atrocious crimes against each other, pump gases into the atmosphere, proliferate plastic products that hurt other species, the earth would be in a better and healthier place. Ergo, the elimination of humans is a good thing. In some extreme instances, we must stop having children (or even curse our own parents – as did a lady in an angry letter mistakenly sent to me – for giving birth to us).

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Ironically, anti-humanism is emphatically pro-humanism. In the very effort to villainize the figure of the human, it re-prioritizes it and centralizes it. What this approach misses, what it throws away to the background, is that what we conveniently call ‘human’ is an ongoing cartographical project of microbial, geological, gastronomical, political, socio-psychological, scientific, technological, ecological, theological consortia. The idea that humans are discrete biological bodies with pre-relational properties and qualities (that are either good or bad) already surgically removes ‘humans’ from their intimate relationships with the world. Perhaps more worryingly, it discountenances the contributions of nonhumans in and around us (you know, like the microbial symbionts that constitute and shape how we think, the moods we have, and the capacities we claim as exclusive to us), paints a rosy picture of ‘Nature’ as this harmonious and stable place devoid of violence and pain and loss, and arrives at a resolution too convenient to the old narratives of good versus evil (if all things ‘human’ must go, then what do we do with this human narrative? And if the counter-argument is that the narrative is not human, then anti-humanism must at least acknowledge that there are other-than-human influential agencies in the world’s materialization – which renders moot the urgency of anti-humanism).

If the effect of guilt reinvests us with an all-or-nothing drive to rid the planet of humans, then anti-humanism is humanism’s most intelligent move yet. Discontinuity is often a system’s most creative effort at perpetuating itself.