Biosphere, Noosphere, and the Anthropocene

Earth’s Perilous Prospects in a Cosmic Context


  • Lisa H. Sideris Indiana University



cosmism, Vladimir Vernadsky, noosphere, Biosphere 2, Star Ark, Universe Story, ecomodernism, interstellar exploration


Visions of a high-tech ‘good’ Anthropocene as well as ambitious world-making projects like Biosphere 2 have roots in a quasi-religious form of cosmism and attendant notions of the noosphere: a planetary sphere of mind. Cosmic perspectives often celebrate and naturalize an image of humans as participants in and ultimately directors of planetary and cosmic processes. This brand of cosmism encourages fantasies of fleeing our ‘used’ planet in search of our presumed interstellar destiny, and it encourages a disregard of earthly, ecological, and even bodily limits. I argue that the turn to planetary and cosmic perspectives is the wrong move for those who care about the future of the Earth and more-than human life.

Author Biography

Lisa H. Sideris, Indiana University

Assistant Professor of Religion


Abram, David. 2010. Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (New York: Pantheon).

Armstrong, Rachel (ed.). 2017. Star Ark: A Living, Self-Sustaining Spaceship (Chichester: Springer Praxis Books).

Asafu-Adjaye, John, et al. 2015. ‘An Ecomodernist Manifesto’. Breakthrough Institute. Online:

Barrow, J.D., and F. Tipler. 1986. The Anthropic Cosmic Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Berry, Thomas. 1978. ‘The New Story: Comments on the Origin, Identi?cation, and Transmission of Values’, Teilhard Studies 1 (Winter): 1-13.

Berry, Thomas. 1988. The Dream of the Earth (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books).

Berry, Thomas. 1999. The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (New York: Random House).

Bonneuil, Christophe. 2015. ‘The Geological Turn: The Anthropocene and Its Narratives’, in Clive Hamilton, Christophe Bonneuil, and Francois Gemenne (eds.), The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch (New York: Routledge): 17-31.

Brand, Stewart. n.d. ‘4 Environmental “Heresies”’, Online:

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2009. ‘A Climate of History: Four Theses’. Critical Inquiry 35.2 (Winter): 197-222.

Chiotti, Roberto. 2017. ‘The Dream Drives the Action: Toward a Functional Cosmo­logy for Interstellar Travel’, in Rachel Armstrong (ed.), Star Ark: A Living, Self-Sustaining Spaceship (Chichester: Springer Praxis Books): 394-400.

Christian, David. 2010. ‘The Return of Universal History’, History and Theory 49.4: 6-27. Doi:

Christian, David. 2017. ‘The Noösphere’, Edge. Online:

Crist, Eileen. 2013. ‘On the Poverty of our Nomenclature’, Environmental Humanities 3: 129-47. Doi:

Crutzen, Paul J., and Eugene F. Stoermer. 2000. ‘The “Anthropocene’”, IGBP Global Change Newsletter 41: 17-18.

Ellis, Erle. 2016. ‘Evolving Toward a Better Anthropocene’, Future Earth, 29 March. Online:

Frank, Adam. 2016. ‘Climate Change and the Astrobiology of the Anthropocene’, 13.7 Cosmos and Culture: Commentary on Science and Society, 1 October. Online:

Frank, Adam, Axel Kleidon, and Marina Alberti. 2017. ‘Earth as a Hybrid Planet: The Anthropocene in an Evolutionary Astrobiological Context’, Anthropocene 19 (September): 13-21. Doi:

Hallberg, Fred W. 1988. ‘Barrow and Tipler’s Anthropic Cosmological Principle’, Zygon 23.2: 139-57. Doi:

Hamilton, Clive, and Jacques Grinevald. 2015. ‘Was the Anthropocene Anticipated?’ Anthropocene Review 2.1: 59-72. Doi:

Huxley, Julian. 1999. ‘Introduction to The Phenomenon of Man’, in Samson and Pitt 1999: 80-85.

Kennard, David, and Patsy Northcutt (dirs.). 2011. Journey of the Universe. InCA Productions. DVD.

Monbiot, George. 2014. ‘Interstellar: Magni?cent Film, Insane Fantasy’. The Guardian, 11 November. Online:

Reider, Rebecca. 2009. Dreaming the Biosphere: The Theater of All Possibilities (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press).

Revkin, Andrew. 1992. Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast (New York: Abbeville Press).

Revkin, Andrew. 2011. ‘Embracing the Anthropocene’, New York Times Dot Earth Blog, 20 May. Online:

Samson, Paul R., and David Pitt (eds.). 1999. The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader: Global Environment, Society, and Change (New York: Routledge). Doi:

Sideris, Lisa H. 2017a. Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (Oakland: University of California Press).

Sideris, Lisa H. 2017b. ‘Exceptionalism, Environmentalism, and Excess’, Forum on ‘Theolo­gies of American Exceptionalism’, The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere. Social Science Research Council, 22 February. Online:

Soulé, Michael. 2013. ‘The “New Conservation”’, Conservation Biology 27.5: 895-97.

Steffen, Will, Jacques Grinevald, Paul Crutzen, and John McNeill. 2001. ‘The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369: 842-67. Doi:

Swimme, Brian Thomas, and Thomas Berry. 1992. The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era—A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (San Francisco: Harper).

Swimme, Brian Thomas, and Mary Evelyn Tucker. 2011. Journey of the Universe (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Tippett, Krista. 2012. ‘Teilhard de Chardin’s “Planetary Mind” and Our Spiritual Evolution’, On Being, 19 December. Online:

Tucker, Mary Evelyn. 2013. ‘The Teilhardian Roots of Journey of the Universe’, Teilhard Perspective 46.2: 1-12.

Turner, Fred. 2006. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Doi:

Wright, Robert. n.d. ‘Robert Wright Interviews Brian Swimme on Religion in a Global Age’, MeaningofLife.TV. Online: http://origins.meaningo?

Young, George M. 2012. The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers (New York: Oxford University Press). Doi:



How to Cite

Sideris, L. H. (2018). Biosphere, Noosphere, and the Anthropocene: Earth’s Perilous Prospects in a Cosmic Context. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 11(4), 399–419.



CLOSED - Special Issue: Religion, Science, and the Future