A Geographers Take on “Ancestral Time”

Climate change expands our temporal horizons. Burning fossil fuels, land use change, and modern agriculture have raised certain communities of humans to agents of planetary history. And while a significant portion of industrial carbon dioxide emissions will be hanging around in the atmosphere for the next 400,000 years, other traces of these communities will be readable millions of years into the future. Amidst this expanding temporality, I see ancestral time as a secular concept that pulls our horizons of care in three directions. Each works to ‘dissolve’ the idea of a self-certain, autonomous human agent as the centre of ethical concern.

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