The Anthropocene concept as a wake-up call for reforming democracy

In Thomas Hickmann, Lena Partzsch, Philipp Pattberg & Sabine Weiland (eds.), The Anthropocene Debate and Political Science. Routledge. pp. 219-237 (2018)
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Human activity has reshaped all parts of the Earth system. For this reason, a vast majority of geologists at the 35th International Geological Congress in Cape Town (September 2016) spoke out in favor of changing the classification of geological epochs and of declaring a new world age – the Anthropocene. This chapter points at implications that the proclamation of the Anthropocene should have for the currently relevant concept of democracy. In particular, it is argued that the transition into a new phase of geology also necessitates a further advancement of our form of government. Democracy, as it has been conceived of and practiced until now, has to a large extent ignored the problem of ‘presentism’. This chapter suggests an extension of the 300-years-old separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branch. It is argued that in order to make our political system more future-oriented, there is a need for a new (fourth) branch which ensures that the interests of future generations be taken into account within today's decision-making process. A newly-established ‘future council’ should have the right to introduce legislation, integrating the competences of this new institution with those of parliament. The chapter concludes with a discussion about the legitimacy of offices for future generations (OFGs) as the embodiment of the proposed future branch.

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Jörg Tremmel
University Tübingen


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