The Critical Zone as a Planetary Animist Sphere

Etho-graphing an Affective Consciousness of the Earth


  • Dan Smyer Yu Yunnan University



affective consciousness, Critical Zone, Gaia, metaphoric animism, ethographies


This article offers a new animist study of ‘the affective consciousness of earth’ to explore deeper meanings and values of the earth as a planetary life system. Woven together as an interdisciplinary text with perspectives, concepts, and imaginative visions from earth sciences, religion and ecology, and environmental humanities, it introduces a conceptual proposition that the earth’s Critical Zone is a planetary animist sphere for the purpose of highlighting the livingness of the earth as a union of the biotic and the abiotic worlds. By interfacing relevant planetary perspectives from humanities and natural sciences, it argues that the metaphor of Gaia, as employed in geophysiology, inadvertently engenders a metaphoric animism that is a form of new animism in which the livingness of the earth is expressed in biochemical, sentient, and affective terms. The recognized complementarity of Critical Zone science and new animist studies in this article is meant to articulate a planetary environmental consciousness that is a hybrid of scientific and humanist endeavors for environmental sustainability. 

Author Biography

Dan Smyer Yu, Yunnan University

Anthropologist specializing in religion and ecology, landscape studies, modern Tibetan studies, environmental humanities


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How to Cite

Smyer Yu, D. (2020). The Critical Zone as a Planetary Animist Sphere: Etho-graphing an Affective Consciousness of the Earth. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 14(2), 271–290.