Global Studies: The Art of Wonder in the Age of the Anthropocene

Richard Feynman, global studies

Richard Feynman (Theoretical physicist, 1918-1988)

It would be a very dull universe for any intelligent being were everything of importance to be known. (Carl Sagan)

What inspired the greatest scientists to spend their lives in a lab? A deep sense of wonder, according to From Galileo to Gell-Mann (2009).

In the age of globalization, the distinction between the humanities and the sciences is less tenable than ever, and increasingly misleading and counterproductive. Maybe we have never been modern, as Bruno Latour argued over 20 years ago. As Maria Popova likes to say, science is culture.

A fortiori, in the age of the Anthropocene, all ‘pre-Anthropocene’ fields need to be reinvented – unless they want to keep ‘floundering in the old categories,’ trying to understand a world that no longer exists. For everything that happens, happens on a planet that has fundamentally and irreversibly begun to change.

This reinvention and redescription of disciplines in order to be able to grasp and respond to the Anthropocene is perhaps the foremost task of a cutting edge understanding of the rapidly emerging field of global studies. (See the brand new scientific journal, The Anthropocene Review: currently free access & blog)

Precursors to this understanding of global education as global studies – global studies avant la lettre, as it were – include C. P. Snow’s (1963) and John Brockman’s (1996) understanding of the ‘third culture,’ as well as E. O. Wilson’s Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), in which he coined the key concept of the environmental and population ‘bottleneck’ that humanity will have to squeeze through in the 21st century.

One of the mottoes of global studies could thus be Richard Feynman’s dictum:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Global studies is education as if reality mattered.

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