Article ID: CBB907621877

Geophysical Agency in the Anthropocene: Engineering a Road and River to Rocky Mountain National Park (October 2017)


Proponents of the Anthropocene epoch posit that human activities now powerfully influence the Earth’s governing systems. Many environmental scholars have offered alternative concepts for this new geologic epoch to challenge its outward anthropocentrism and tendency to flatten the diversity of the world’s people into a single planetary humanity. But in doing so, these critiques distort a more distributive and systemic understanding of agency. This article suggests that geophysical agency offers historians a more useful and precise conceptual term for interpreting connections among human ideas and actions, material systems, and geologic change. One way that human undertakings have functioned geologically has been by moving earth and inscribing asphalt over an extended chronology of the Great Acceleration. Examining 1930s highway construction in Colorado’s Big Thompson Canyon offers a window into some of the historical processes that have defined geophysical agency.

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Authors & Contributors
Scamehorn, H. Lee
Rothman, Hal K.
Grusin, Richard A.
Iversen, Kristen
Johnson, Christopher
Govatski, David
Railroad History
Museum History Journal
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
University Press of Colorado
University of Washington Press
Oxford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Crown Publishers
Island Press
National parks and reserves
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Combustion; fire
Forests and forestry
Douglas, Frederic Huntington
FitzGerald, Mabel Purefoy
Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson
Kindig, Richard H.
Hayden, Ferdinand Vandeveer
United States
Colorado (U.S.)
Rocky Mountains (U.S.)
Hawaii (U.S.)
Appalachian region (North America)
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
Oxford University
Colorado Railroad Museum

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