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How the Earth remembers and forgets

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In this chapter I argue that we can start to extend political ideas to other entities within the Earth through deploying an intermediary concept such as ‘memory’. In the domain of human politics, there has been much attention to the role of collective memory in the politics of recognition and justice – but also the role that active forgetting can play in creating the conditions for progressive social change. What about the politics of the Earth? Natural scientists sometimes us the word ‘memory’ to describe biological or even geophysical process: they talk of ‘climate memory’, or ‘ecological memory’, or materials as having ‘shape memory’. But what would happen if we took such usages seriously, and applied the idea of memory to a complex entity like a planet? How could the Earth be said to remember and to forget? What memory systems has the Earth evolved in its 4.5 billion-year ‘geostory’? And if the Earth is indeed entering ‘the Anthropocene’, a new geological epoch in which humans are the determining geological force, how might the Anthropocene be inserting itself into the memory systems of the Earth? Might thinking of the Earth as something that remembers and forgets change the way that we think about this thing we call the Anthropocene, what it is and what it means?