Landing : Athabascau University

Unit 5: Capitalocene Vs. Anthropocene

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By Sydney Carroll January 14, 2024 - 1:46am

    The theory of Capitalocene changes the perspective of the effect humans have had on the earth compared to Anthropocene. This shift in perspective is due to the origin of the source of geological epoch or a shift in timelines. The origin of Anthropocene is understood by some professionals like Raj Patel who says that it's a phase of “humans being humans” (Patel, 2018). Meaning that increased levels of errorion, sea level rise and ocean acidification are just part of the natural order of humans being the dominating species (Pavid, n.d.). The term Anthropocene is widely accepted and even in my own studies, it is commonly used to explain this time period. 

Capitalocene challenges the idea and counters with a more thoughtful argument, that capitalism has led humans to an ecological tipping point. Caoitalocene in layman's terms identifies that humans and the system of capitalism which is widely accepted and practiced in all corners of the world, is the cause of the demise of our planet at an exponential rate. Authors like Jason Moore state that Capitalocene is more nuanced and includes ideas like the class divide and the disproportionate effect of climate change in impoverished areas (Moore, 2017). This theory explains why 48% of the world's population contributes to 82% of the greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere (Wilmoth et al., 2023). 

While both of these theories are true and have similar themes. I think it's most important to think critically about these ideas and like we’ve discussed in lecture, which groups may be benefiting from each of these ideologies and how these theories can potentially be used to push a narrative that could be the foundation of policies and laws that impact humans. 

Capitalocene forces people like myself who are part of the 48% to look inwards at our own practices and how we continue to benefit from a system like Anthropocene that may allow us to lighten our burden by placing it elsewhere. Having to take responsibility for the systems that allow us to have many conveniences, like globalization, means that our consumption has to become more thoughtful. We know that only a few people hold more wealth than the majority of the world, 3.6 billion people worldwide (Moore, 2017). But why would we want to question a system that benefits us? If those of us who consume more and profit off of the inequality of the impoverished, then are we any better than the handful of people who quietly run the show and pull the strings? When we do nothing to move away from capitalism and accept the decline of the earth's systems, how can we point the finger if we enjoy the benefits of a system that sets us up for success and others for failure. Using terms like Anthropocene may allow people to believe that the blame for the earth's undoing is equally shared. Capitalocene forces us to question what systems have led us to a tipping point in a few short hundred years (Boshnjaku & Cutts, 2012). 

This need for critical thinking and understanding the nuances of intentions is also true for the world of politics. In my opinion, politics is seldom forthcoming and quantitative. Even with our own political system in Canada when it comes to meeting our environmental targets, we have missed the mark and continue to do so. While the definitive number of how far the nation is from meeting its 2030 and 2050 targets are unknown, most sources all say the same thing; Canada has missed every climate target that has ever been set.

Although in theory reducing emissions by 40% from the 2005 baseline year is a great goal in theory, it has yet to be realized in practice (The Guardian, 2023). Setting climate goals is important if we hope to turn the tides against the Anthropocene theory but I believe our climate goals continue to miss the mark because Capitalocene is not considered. I find it hard to believe that we can both reduce our emissions while “strengthening our economy with sustainable jobs and clean industrial growth”. Something has to give and without an action plan with substantial oversight and experts contesting the data, there may be little to show for in the following years to come. 


Boshnjaku, A., & Cutts, S. (2012, April 1). Welcome to the Anthropocene. YouTube. Retrieved January 14, 2024, from

The Guardian. (2023, November 7). Canada's emissions cut plan insufficient to meet targets, official report finds. The Guardian. Retrieved January 14, 2024, from

Moore, J. (2017). Capitalocene And Planetary Justice. Jason W. Moore.

Patel, R. (2018, July 21). Capitalism is destroying the planet. Youtube. Retrieved January 14, 2024, from

Pavid, K. (n.d.). What is the Anthropocene and why does it matter? Natural History Museum. Retrieved January 14, 2024, from

Wilmoth, J., Menozzi, C., Gu, D., & Bassarsky, L. (2023, July 10). As the World's Population Surpasses 8 Billion, What Are the Implications for Planetary Health and Sustainability? | United Nations. The United Nations. Retrieved January 14, 2024, from