Is Nature About to (Be) End(ed)? Conceptions of the Environment and Moral Responsibility in the Anthropocene

Lena Pfeifer


This essay reads two policy documents, Our Common Future (1987) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992/94), and one non-fiction text, Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989), against the backdrop of moral responsibility. Bringing these texts into conversation by interpreting them as threshold texts of Anthropocene thinking, this essay attempts to map the cultural-political climate of the late 1980s and early 1990s with regard to changing conceptualizations of the environment. I argue that McKibben’s The End of Nature, despite various shortcomings as to capturing implications of culpability and responsibility in the Anthropocene, contributes a crucial component to the changes needed for developing a sense of moral responsibility at the time of its publication.


Anthropocene; moral responsibility; ethics; environment; Bill McKibben; The End of Nature; US-American literary environmentalism; Our Common Future; UNFCCC

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