Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): They address the climate emergency in the first Dialogue for Sustainability of the semester


The meeting organized by the Institute for Sustainable Development UC, featured presentations by academics from the world of geology, letters and theology. The dialogue focused on the Anthropocene and addressed issues such as the extinction of species, socio-environmental transformations, actions in the face of the crisis and the proposal for a new Constitution.

“The Anthropocene as a metaphor of a civilizing crime against nature”. That was one of the definitions used to characterize the so-called “age of man” at the start of the Dialogues for Sustainability this second semester.

The first of several university meetings, sought to connect knowledge and experiences around the different dimensions of the socio-ecological crisis, and also the futures that we can imagine (and design) to counteract it.

“The Anthropocene would be the mark that human beings would have left on the biophysical systems that allow the existence of life. These alterations include changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, acidification of the oceans and soils, the release of sulfur and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, as well as the impacts of greenhouse gases,” he explained at the university meeting. the academic and moderator of the instance, Manuel Tironi.

The academic from the Institute for Sustainable Development and the Institute of Sociology UC , was explicit in defining that “the Anthropocene would be that geological moment marked by the irreversible intervention of humanity on Earth”, indicating that “we are responsible for what has happened . We cannot ignore what our role has been in these changes.”

“We are responsible for what has happened. We cannot ignore what our role has been in these changes” – Manuel Tironi, academic from the Institute for Sustainable Development and the UC Institute of Sociology.

The event brought together nearly 300 people in the Francisco Rosende Economics auditorium, including undergraduate Sustainability (SUS1000) students, academics, officials and members of the UC community.

The space featured presentations by Gloria Arancibia ( UC Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering ), Román Guridi ( UC Faculty of Theology ) and Sofía Rosa (UC Doctor of Literature ). After their individual exhibitions, a discussion was held on the “Perspectives of the Anthropocene: tensions and representations”.

Potential mass extinction of species
UC academic Gloria Arancibia gave a geological perspective of life on Earth and the appearance of humanity, in relation to the Anthropocene and its effects on the planet. “Throughout the history of the Earth we have had five mass extinctions. What does a mass extinction mean? That more than 75% of the species on the planet have been eliminated”, explained the academic from the UC Department of Engineering and Geotechnics.

“Throughout the history of the Earth we have had five mass extinctions” – UC academic Gloria Arancibia

“The last mass extinction that we know of is the one that occurred 65 million years ago, which meant the end of the dinosaurs. Today we have the extinction of many species and the elimination of biodiversity, and it is questionable whether human action is effectively leading to a significant elimination of species present on the planet”, explains Arancibia.

And therein lies the key. Unlike previous events, where the forces that led to extreme transformations were non-human, today we as a society could be the ones to lead to this potential outcome.

Given this scenario, the doctor affirms that “what can be done is to generate a little more awareness that we are indeed a system. We are not something isolated. What the human being does or does not do has an impact here, now and in the future”.

The cultural dimension of the crisis
“It is evident that scientific knowledge is a contribution to face the challenges that the Anthropocene presents us. Pretending to dispense with or minimize the role of science would be a tremendous mistake. But it would also be a mistake to think that we are going to face what we are experiencing only with more science and more technique”, explained the UC theologian Román Guridi.

From the academic’s point of view, “there is a cultural dimension to the ecological crisis. Deep down in our behaviors there are ideas, ways of thinking, understandings of reality that affect how we position ourselves affectively in the face of that reality and are translated into habits and practices”. Guridi also delved into the role of religions in the face of the crisis, and the work of theology. “From religions one can look at social forms of life and make a cultural critique. An example of this is a notion that Laudato si’ proposes about a throwaway culture”.

Although he clarifies that “the way back is also important. For example, the Christian perspective and its anthropocentric view have been indicated as part of the problem. So religions have also been and are revising ways of thinking, speaking, understanding reality and practices that are potentially collaborating with the problems”.

Faced with this challenging scenario, the academic considers that “the discourse of extinction and catastrophe do a disservice, because they generate detachment and anguish. Assuming narratives that connect with optimism, not uncritical, and recover the capacity for transformation and human agency, is essential”.

Imagining new futures from the humanities
Sofía Rosa, Ph.D. in Literature UC, played an amalgamation role between the two previous presentations, with an approach from the environmental humanities associated with the Anthropocene, that is, uniting science, art and the environment.

In her exhibition, Rosa globally reviews the different narratives that have emerged around the Anthropocene, and how to define it, interpret it and imagine new futures. “The Anthropocene has to do with the images and models of the world that we have (…) There are authors who suggest that we should speak of the Anthropocene as a symbol and metaphor of a civilizing crime against nature,” explains the doctor.

Dedicated to investigating the representations of the Anthropocene in literature and the arts, Sofía Rosa adds that “ecocriticism and environmental humanities have tried to make great progress in proposing new narratives that come out of the apocalyptic paradigm and the end of the world.”

“The Anthropocene has a lot to do with shaping the environmental humanities. It opened the door for the social and anthropological sciences, and especially the humanities and arts, to be able to participate in this conversation, not only proposing a cultural critique of the concept, but also conceptual and diagnostic alternatives to this crisis,” explained the specialist.

The Dialogues for Sustainability will continue to take place during the second half of 2022. The space is open to the public and registration will be announced through the website of the Institute for Sustainable Development and its social networks.

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