IVM and FGG appoint two Junior Fellows in Ethics of the Anthropocene

Eva Coster-van Urk MA and Petra van der Kooij MA have been appointed as the first VU Junior Fellows in the Ethics of the Anthropocene Program for 2017. There terms will run from March till the end of this academic year.

02/01/2017 | 10:03 PM

The Ethics of the Anthropocene Fellowship is a collaborative initiative of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) and the Faculty of Theology. It is intended to foster research projects at the interface of ethics, religion and global environmental change. Annual fellowships are awarded alternately to an established Senior scholar and to two or three promising PhD-Candidates who are in the process of specializing in this burgeoning field.

eva_coster-van_UrkEva Coster-van Urk studied applied psychology as well as theology and religious studies. In her upcoming PhD-project she will study the dynamic interactions between religious and secular narratives on human-animal relations in the context of the moral debate on living in the Anthropocene. The recent concept of the ‘Anthropocene’ provides a hermeneutical framework in which various discourses can be situated about the proper ways in which humans and animals should move towards a shared, liveable future. In these debates current developments such as the extinction of species and habitat destruction play a major role. How do religious and secular outlooks ‘match’ in valuing non-human animals and in inspiring us to make sustainable choices for the common good of the biosphere? In religious traditions recourse is taken to holy scriptures for inspiration and guidance, whereas in the more general literature religious concepts and metaphors (e.g. that of stewardship) often continue to play a heuristic role. But what basic narratives and ideals in relation to the Anthropocene do actually guide us in our valuation of human-animal relations? How are various narratives about ‘who we are and where we are going’ in relation to the ecosphere constructed? Both theoretical and more practical/local case studies (including a specific casestudy on fishermen) will be employed in order to expand our knowledge on these pivotal issues.

petra_van_der_kooijPetra van der Kooij studied Interdisciplinary Sciences and specialized in Human Ecology: Culture Power and Sustainability. During her fellowship Petra will study different Anthropocene narratives concerning the relationship between social justice and ecological sustainability. In the Anthropocene, humanity is the new geological force drastically changing the systems of the Earth. This does not only affect the natural systems of the Earth, but also places humanity in a new perspective. We can no longer study the ecological crisis as being merely a natural event. The Anthropocene demands both modern scientists as well as environmental movements to reconsider human-nature relations and to reevaluate environmental ethics. Through a politicization of the Anthropocene, issues of justice, ethics and morality can be put at the forefront of the debate. Political Ecology scholars and the Environmental Justice Movement are both committed to politicize the ecological crisis and to rethink socio-ecological relations. However, there is no agreement on how these relations are to be conceptualized, or how specific socio-ecological relations are constituted. By scrutinizing different scientific narratives of the Anthropocene and through a visualization of different local stories of environmental struggles, the following question is considered: how can the many life-worlds of the Anthropocene exist on one Earth while encouraging and strengthening social, environmental and ecological justice?

About the Fellowship
The novel concept of an ‘Anthropocene’ has been proposed to denote the present epoch in planetary history, following up the earlier Holocene: as a new geological era now largely defined by the extent and direction of human activities with a profound global impact on the earth’s ecosystems. Importantly, the concept of an ‘Anthropocene’ now places humankind fully at the centre of planetary evolution, as the main driving force on planet earth. These conceptual developments, however, raise fundamental normative questions with profound relevance for religion and ethics and for the principles that will guide the governance of the earth system.

To study these important questions, VU Amsterdam has installed a special program for senior and junior researchers, the VU Fellowship in the Ethics of the Anthropocene. The Senior Fellowship is designed to attract international highly accomplished scientists from a variety of fields who specialise in the analysis of the ethical dimensions of global environmental change, with a particular, but not exclusive emphasis on the teachings of the major world religions, including indigenous spirituality. The Junior Fellowship aims at supporting PhD-Candidates to develop and carry out research plans in this same area. In addition to pursuing their research, Fellows are expected to participate in debates among different academic communities at the VU and beyond.