Planetary Rifting and the Paleogeography of Care

Clark, Nigel and Whittle, Rebecca (2023) Planetary Rifting and the Paleogeography of Care. Environmental Humanities. ISSN 2201-1919 (In Press)

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With their spectre of intergenerational betrayal, global environmental crises increasingly entangle politics with matters of care, attachment and love – especially the unconditional bonds we are so often assumed to share with our offspring. As a contribution to the nascent field of paleoenvironmental humanities, our approach to questions of care and responsibility turns from future horizon-scanning to the realm of human origins. The paper focuses on two broad sets of paleo stories which share a concern with rifts or stress points that complicate originary events and scenes. The first of these is a family of hypotheses which propose that pivotal evolutionary developments took place in the climatically variable and tectonically active terrain of the East African Rift. The second is the co-operative breeding hypothesis which contends that communally distributed childcare arrangements are a definitive characteristic of the genus Homo, while also highlighting the conditionality and precariousness of human intergenerational care. Taken together these approaches point to deep-seated fault-lines running through both our home planet and our own psychosocial being. Confronting these rifts, we argue, might help loosen the hold of notions of ontological reconciliation between humans and nature that risk exacerbating the very problems they seek to resolve, while also helping us to seek attachments that are more conducive to living with and through earthly volatility.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Environmental Humanities
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Deposited On:
10 May 2023 13:20
In Press
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 02:14