Anthropocene?


This week on Facebook: The argument, particularly in the USA, appears to revolve around global warming and the cause of it. A long time ago I met someone who had attended the  (original) Rio Conference¹. He remarked that even at the conference the scientist were not in agreement as to the causes of environmental pollution however, those with a political axe to grind clearly where. Well, so much for that!

Since the Rio Conference in 1992 the world has moved on, environmental protection has created much political taxation and yet the global competition for economic growth continues unabated. This raises questions in an anthropocene view of the world, particularly those involving economic growth².

Political careers are reliant on delivering economic growth (including Sweden), or at least not making the populace worse off. The reality being that in general the populace has become worse off, with any increases in global wealth bringing no end to an anthropocene world fuelled by economic growth reliant on increasing population growth and GDP.

History teaches us that when the status quo only offers stagnation or decline, voters will look for radical alternatives. Why the world is unprepared for the economic dangers ahead


1. What is the Anthropocene? The period saw the beginning of widespread pollution of land, air, and water as factories pumped out smoke, effluents, and other waste products. Meanwhile, urban areas began to grow fast, adding to the environmental problems. As the numbers of humans expanded rapidly, species of animals, fish, birds, and plants began to decline. New evidence suggests that by the mid-nineteenth century the burning of coal to power the industries that were spreading across Europe and the United States had already begun to nudge global temperatures upwards.

2. What Is the Anthropocene and Are We in It? According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organisation in charge of defining Earth’s time scale, we are officially in the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age. But that label is outdated, some experts say. They argue for “Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”—because human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.

3. The Anthropocene Project: At the intersection of art and science, ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch witnesses in an experiential and non-didactic sense a critical moment in geological history — bringing a provocative and unforgettable experience of our species’ breadth and impact.

4. When Did Humans Doom the Earth for Good? The Anthropocene does not, in the strictest sense, exist. By the standards of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the administrators of the geologic time scale — that old-school conceptual ruler notched with eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages stretching back to what we refer to as the Earth’s beginning, about four and a half billion years ago — we are living in the epoch called the Holocene. The proposition, however, is that this is no longer true — that we are now in a new epoch, one defined by humanity’s significant impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.

5. Anthropocene doesn’t exist and species of the future will not recognise it: It is remarkable how quickly this idea has become ubiquitous. It is now the subject not just of academic texts and conferences, but art, fiction, magazines, travelogues, poetry, even an opera. While I agree that this is an important and timely provocation, I want to pause here for a moment, and consider whether the Anthropocene narrative really does capture our predicament and our prospects.


Referenced Articles & Books:

  • A text subscript above and preceding the title here, refers to a book, pdf, podcast, video, slide show and a download that is usually free.
  • Brackets containing a number e.g. (1) are used above to reference a particular article (1-5).
  • Links (without superscript) reference a source.
  • Links may be in italics to indicate the  (context).
  • A long read url* (included below) is followed by an asterisk.
  • Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
  • JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.

¹The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development —1992 (pdf): Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

²Anthropocene Epoch (url*): The formalisation of the Anthropocene hinges on whether the effects of humans on Earth are substantial enough to eventually appear in rock strata. Most scientists agree that the collective influence of humans was small before the dawn of the Industrial Revolution during the middle of the 18th century; however, advancements in technology occurring since then have made it possible for humans to undertake widespread, systematic changes that affect several facets of the Earth system.

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The Land Is Ours

a Landrights campaign for Britain

The Bulletin

This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

TCWG Short Stories

Join our monthly competition and share story ideas...

The Real Economy

Blogs and stuff from Ed Conway

Public Law for Everyone

Professor Mark Elliott

Bleda

Am I my Brothers keeper?

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