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We’re cooking up trouble: The Anthropocene and its consequences

From wooden spoon to the rudder of globalization | A non-fiction comic about food and how we might eat in tomorrow’s world | Project of the Cluster of Excellence at Humboldt-University, Berlin

Heidelberg, 22 November 2016

Book cover: Eating AnthropoceneFood is the basis of all life, but for humans it is much more than just a basic need to be met. Food is an approach to life and is at the heart of social interaction in our private and working lives. We attach great importance to healthy eating, and the media have turned food into a lifestyle topic. Regardless of the preferences any one individual may entertain, our diet has huge consequences for the ecosystem of our planet. The non-fiction Springer science comic Eating Anthropocene focuses on how humans interfere with the Earth’s metabolism, the impacts we face now and in the future, and what adjustments could be made to achieve decent living conditions in a sustainable future.

‘Barely a quarter of the Earth’s surface that is not covered in ice reflects nature in its original form,‘ geologist and co-author Reinhold Leinfelder explains at the beginning of the book. ‘At the same time, the amount of plastic we produce every year is equal to the total weight of all the people living in the world today. Along with our livestock and crops, we humans dominate the biosphere.’ Reinhold Leinfelder, Alexandra Hamann, Jens Kirstein, and Marc Schleunitz impressively show the connection between diet, use of resources, environmental degradation, and climate change – from the discovery of fire to industrially processed food.

Ten exemplary protagonists from five different continents reveal their favorite recipes and in doing so highlight global patterns. The individual stories prompted more in-depth scientific research. Phosphorus and phosphate play a central role throughout the book. Phosphorus is not only an essential element for all life on Earth; phosphate and its various compounds are also one of the main ingredients in fertilizers and have greatly increased global agricultural yield. What many people are not aware of, however, is that supplies of this resource are not unlimited.

The stories take readers on a journey to Uganda, Morocco, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Micronesia, Norway, and the United States. One of the characteristics of the comic is that the visual language is different for each story, because 12 international artists¹ from the relevant countries were responsible for illustrating the stories. In addition to the culinary and thematic diversity of the comic, there is also a broad range of styles, thus lightening the complexity of the book.
In the final, joint chapter, the team of authors and illustrators take a look at the future – or rather from the future to the present:

It is 2050, and the ten protagonists write postcards home about their journey to a foreign country. The subjective snapshots thus created of possible scenarios in the decades ahead form a very original conclusion to this complex book.

The 12 chapters are full of information. The authors address issues such as genetic engineering, lifestyle food, and insects as an alternative source of protein in a vivid and easily understandable way. They touch on Mao and the Green Revolution and provide information about mass production, eco-sufficiency, and sugar addiction, taking account of the characteristics of different societies and explaining the far-reaching impacts on our planet. We have now entered a new human-influenced age, the Anthropocene, and humans need to find solutions for a viable future. The path to that future might perhaps begin in the kitchen.

The publication was made possible as one of the key projects emerging from the Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung – An Interdisciplinary Laboratory at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin using the multimodality of the comic genre to communicate the complex and interdependent issues.

Reinhold Leinfelder | Alexandra Hamann | Jens Kirstein | Marc Schleunitz (eds.)
Eating Anthropocene
Curd Rice, Bienenstich and a Pinch of Phosphorus – Around the World in Ten Dishes
1st ed. 2016, 247 p.
Hardcover $34.99 | €24,99 (D) | £19.50
ISBN 978-3-662-50402-4

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Uschi Kidane | Springer Nature | Communications
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