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Education, the Anthropocene and Deleuze/Guattari

Human civilization stands at an almost unimaginable precipice. The human past, leading up to today, has seen global civilization develop under the favourable conditions of the Holocene since 10000 B.C.. However, that is changing – we are now in the Anthropocene, what Deleuze/Guattari term as the future rupturing the present, wherein past development is no guide to the future. This book suggests that the Anthropocene should be reanalysed given four dimensions, namely: ‘tool-enhancement’; ‘carbon trail’; ‘the phallocene’; and, ‘atomic-time’. These dimensions will map out the unconscious drives that have created the Anthropocene. Adjacent and through this mapping, a new mode of combined educational and societal change is suggested. This mode of education and social change tackles key climate indicators and factors, such as degrowth, changing consciousness, a Green Utopia, building a critical model to realign current practices and globalisation. This is the first book to put the philosophy of Deleuze/Guattari to work for the future, and our collective existence on planet Earth, and relies on your situational contributions as the motor of change…


Anyone still in doubt about the political and ethical significance of environmental education needs to read David R. Cole’s exceptional Education, the Anthropocene, and Deleuze/Guattari. Cole demonstrates with perfect clarity and keen detail how a radical rethinking about the environment rests with also rethinking educational praxis by understanding unconscious drives and desires that perpetuate the Anthropocene and which complicate traditional educational efforts. This is a remarkable and incisive book, that captures the contemporary moment eloquently, and also provides readers with an outstanding website full of contributions and resources from interdisciplinary researchers engaged in rethinking the Anthropocentric moment.

P. Taylor Webb, PhD
Associate Professor

Faculty of Education

The University of British Columbia, Canada.

David R. Cole’s new book provides a critical reading of education, through the matrix of Deleuze/Guattari theory, examining the problem of the future and how we might escape the Anthropocene, to find what Guattari called ‘the joy of living’. An optimistic and positive view based on the idea that we can change.

Michael A. Peters
Distinguished Professor
Faculty of Education
Beijing Normal University & Waikato University, New Zealand

While collective human-more-than-human earthly entities are paused in a temporal limbo of precarity; education needs room to breathe. The speculative and gestural possibilities for living within a new mode of humanity depend on it.  The planet deserves it. This book by David R. Cole finds new spaces, a place to inhale, as he invites a host of others onto a stage we humans thought we occupied alone.

Karen Malone
Professor of Education
Director of Research
Swinburne University, Melbourne. 

Cole’s original and unique book directly speaks to those educators seeking to escape the nightmare of the Anthropocene. It offers an incisive, Deleuze-Guattarian analysis of dominant, yet barely acknowledged drivers of the Anthropocene, and follows these through to stimulating expositions of new ways of learning, teaching and doing pedagogy. In doing so, it offers alternative understandings of how we could practice education that can provide escape routes from the Anthropocene that are not about escapism. It does this in a no-nonsense, hard-hitting style that is entirely appropriate to the urgency of the overwhelming planetary crisis. The book is thus also a demonstration of how to produce original and significant knowledge in ways that can help rejuvenate and re-imagine transformative practices for education. It is a must-read for anyone interested in combining contemporary theory, research and educational practice in ways that can usher in utopian futures. 

Esther Priyadharshini
Associate Professor in Education
University of East Anglia, UK.

A brilliant and incredibly timely book. Cole not only provides an original analysis of the trends that have led to our contemporary crises, but more importantly, he shows how Deleuze and Guattari’s work can provide a model for “thinking and learning differently” in the Anthropocene. 

Daniel W. Smith
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Purdue University, USA.

In this erudite and carefully crafted conceptual book, with many entry and exit points, David R. Cole challenges the reader to think how education and educational practice can enact a feasible way out from the effects of end-of-world narratives and provide an escape from the entrapment of the Anthropocene.

Juan Francisco Salazar Sutil
Professor of Anthropology
Institute of Culture and Society
Western Sydney University  

Congratulations to David R. Cole for producing a much needed and timely contribution in response to a key question of our time: What does it mean to be learning in the Anthropocene? While reading this book, I was reminded of an assertion by Albert Einstein in a letter, dated 21 March 1955, written four weeks before his death, that “the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion.” The past is still with us and the future is within us, but we live in the now. We cannot undo the past through linear extrapolation from what went wrong to an idealized future that will save us from perishing in the sixth mass extinction. What we can and must do—and keep doing—is, according to Cole, “to try and figure out the patterns, tendencies, rhythms, repetitions, forces, and drives that have . . . gone to make up the present.” Non-linear analysis of the drives that throughout human history have brought us the Anthropocene allows us to continually reinvent the now as an expanded time dimension and elucidate practices and opportunities for learning in the Anthropocene. One seldom comes across a book that, right from the beginning, is at the same time intoxicating to read but also impossible to put down as soon as one has started reading. With every page one reads and—if not immediately grasped, rereads—one becomes more and more convinced that there is a treasure hidden within, but that it takes hard work to dig it up.

Jan Visser
President & Sr. Researcher, Learning Development Institute
Professor Extraordinary, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

This is a link to a video where I talk about the book (I am on second):

In this link, I speak about the book in a panel discussion: