Book review | Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene | Clive Hamilton



It’s a chilling prospect that we’ve reached the point of no return, and in Defiant Earth, Clive Hamilton presents a very tangible, forcible argument on a new geological epoch. Which is kind of a big deal. It’s not like geologists talk about new geological epochs on a whim.

Hamilton argues that humans have become so powerful we have disrupted the functioning of the Earth, bringing on a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.

The stable environmental conditions that allowed civilisation to flourish are disappearing.

The book starts by setting out the science, explaining the Gelogical Time Scale which divides the Earth’s history into ages, epochs, periods, eras and eons and sets out the principal reason for scientists’ belief that we’ve shifted out of our previous epoch, the Holocene.

Defiant Earth is an easy read for people who have been following the climate change debate whether or not they have a deep understanding of science and geology.

What does it mean to have arrived at this point, where human history and Earth history collide? Hamilton argues we need to rethink everything. The modern belief that we are free beings making our own future by taking control of our environment is now indefensible.

We have rendered the Earth more unpredictable and less controllable; a disobedient planet. And it’s too late to turn back the geological clock.

We must face the fact that humans are at the centre of the world, even if we must give up the idea we can control the planet. These truths call for a new kind of anthropocentrism, a philosophy by which we might use our power responsibly and find a way to live on a defiant Earth.

Defiant Earth: The fate of humans in the Anthropocene is published by Allen and Unwin and retails for $29.99. More at

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