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Glacial Deaths, Geologic Extinction

Schmidt, Jeremy J.

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In 2019, several funerals were held for glaciers. If enough glaciers die, could they go extinct? Is there geologic extinction? Yes. This article develops three arguments to support this claim. The first revisits Georges Cuvier’s original argument for extinction and its reliance on geology, especially glaciers. Retracing connections to glaciers and the narrowing of extinction to biological species in the nineteenth century, I argue that anthropogenic forcing on how the Earth system functions-the Anthropocene-provides warrant to rethink extinction geologically. The second argument examines the specificity of ice loss and multiple practices responding to this loss: from art exhibits at United Nations climate change meetings to anti-colonial claims for the right to be cold. The third argument consolidates a theme built across the article regarding how Isabelle Stengers’s notion of ecologies of practices provides an approach to geologic extinction that recognizes both relational and non-relational loss.


Schmidt, J. J. (2021). Glacial Deaths, Geologic Extinction. Environmental Humanities, 13(2), 281-300.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Nov 1, 2021
Publication Date 2021-11
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 3, 2021
Journal Environmental Humanities
Publisher Duke University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 281-300


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