From the Atom to the Atmosphere: Replacing Nature with a Synthetic World

Program Description

From the furthest part of the Arctic Ocean to the remotest spot in the Montana backcountry, the unmistakable traces of human activity are now everywhere. We live in the moment when “pristine nature” is permanently blinking out of existence. The most dramatic aspect of this distinctive moment in history, however, is the arrival of new technologies that promise even deeper transformations of the world around us. From here onwards, technologies like nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and climate engineering will transform our planet into an increasingly synthetic whole. Christopher Preston shows how many of these nature-replacing technologies may be necessary, but also how they may risk cutting us loose from the things that keep us sane.

Presenter Bio

Christopher Preston teaches environmental philosophy at the University of Montana, Missoula. His expertise revolves around the idea of the Anthropocene, the epoch in which human influence is everywhere. He studies emerging technologies for their impact on the human-nature experience, as well as restoration and rewilding efforts. His award-winning book, The Synthetic Age: Outdesigning Evolution, Resurrecting Species, and Reengineering Our World, has been translated into six languages. His latest book, Tenacious Beasts: Wildlife Recoveries That Change How We Think about Animals (February 2023), offers hope for recovering species as well as lessons about how to live with them.


Christopher J. Preston
Professor of environmental philosophy, University of Montana