Stewardship in the Anthropocene: Meanings, Tensions, Futures

Maria Tengö, Johan Enqvist, Simon West, Uno Svedin, Vanessa A. Masterson, L. Jamila Haider

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Stewardship is increasingly invoked in calls for more sustainable relationships between people and nature. Although its meanings diverge, the concept’s relevance grew alongside the realization that our world is entering the Anthropocene era, where the main forces shaping the planet stem from human intervention. This essay explores the historical roots of stewardship through the lens of agency, knowledge, and care. The vastly extended agency of (some) humans brought by the Industrial Revolution, colonization, and the rise of global capitalism has transformed how we must look at responsibility for the outcomes of our actions, and question which stakeholders need to be empowered to change human impact on their environments. Meanwhile, the rise of scientific knowledge altered human awareness of their dependence on, and tampering with, natural processes from subatomic to planetary scales and beyond. Consequently, recognizing the utility of additional forms of knowledge - including indigenous, traditional, and practice-based - may be key for promoting stewardship. The notion of care arose through the ideas born in the French Revolution and American Declaration of Independence, as equality and human rights helped advance the cause of minimizing suffering. However, such caring for the welfare of the rest of the biosphere is insufficient today.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStewardship and the Future of the Planet
Subtitle of host publicationPromise and Paradox
EditorsRachel Carnell, Chris Mounsey
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781000624748
ISBN (Print)9781032112459
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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