AnthropoWHAT?

            One of the most influential and well-respected physicists, Albert Einstein, once said that “The environment is everything that isn’t me”. While his observation may seem quite obvious by stating that people cannot be trees, or grass, or icebergs, I don’t believe Einstein was ready for the shift of the geological epoch that is known to be the Anthropocene. First coined in the early 2000’s, atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen gave the present-day era a fitting name that emodies the essence of the people’s influence on the environment.

            According to the article “Geologists drive golden spike toward Anthropocene’s base”, Paul Voosen states that the earliest human influence on the environment could be dated back 40,000 years ago. However, Crutzen notes the “Great Acceleration” period of the early 19th century to be the most influential. With the introduction of the Industrial Revolution came not only a flourishing of businesses and new technology, but also a population growth that affected the environment since. According to the United Nations, the population in the 1950’s (right at the beginning of this acceleration period) was around 2.5 billion people, which was a lot for post-war period. However, the population recorded in 1999 showed that nearly 6 billion people inherited the earth and around 7 billion people today. According to this rise, population could be up to 9 billion people by 2050. What will this mean for the environment?

            With the growth of people comes more greenhouse gas emissions, which is one of the causes of climate change and “global warming” in the environment. But, according to Will Steffen in his video lecture on the Anthropocene, there are many other factors that affect the environment which are caused by people, such as ozone depletion and ocean acidification.

            There is still controversy surrounding the globalization of the term Anthropocene to be used as a scientific term. Many believe that we have indeed moved into a geological era that has been shaped and molded by people, but there are some (including Cruztzen) who feel that more stratigraphic research on the earth’s sediment layers is needed before jumping to conclusions. Most believe, though, that the term Anthropocene does indeed give people a sort-of “warning” about what kind of influence that they have on the environment that they live in. While Einstein might have had good cause for saying what he did, I don’t think that even his intelligence could have predicted that people would not only shape but eventually become their environment.

 -Sara

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3 responses to “AnthropoWHAT?

  1. I really like how you used Albert Einstein’s quote in your post. It tied things together quite well. I tend to agree that we may need a bit more evidence from the sedimentary layers of the Earth before we make the huge decision to call this a new epoch. I do agree that the term is a great way to “warn” people in the world, though. Hopefully, with the high use of the term Anthropocene and the understanding of what it means, people will want to change how they are effecting the environment for the better.

  2. I did learn something new today. Many people including me consider global warming to be the cause of all the catastrophies that we see recently. From the destruction of ozone layer to the rising of water levels in the oceans. We see in the video “The Anthropocene” by Will Steffen apart from global warming there are other factors that contributes to the changes that we see in this epoch such as idnustrialization and rapid growth of population. These changes sign significantly define our anthropocene or era.

  3. Great post, Sara! I like how you pulled together several sources to create a single narrative describing the concept of the Anthropocene. As you mention, the rapid increase in world population that began around 1950 and continues today poses a significant challenge: supplying all those people with the food, water, and energy they will need won’t be easy — especially if it is our goal that all of these people have the opportunity not only to survive, but also to enjoy some level of prosperity. People sometimes refer to the “carrying capacity” of planet Earth, but it is important to keep in mind that any estimate of the Earth’s carrying capacity must factor in not only the number of people but also the kinds of lives they live (or are able to live). I’ve found that once we start to think about quality of life, not just quantity, the ethical aspect of the Anthropocene starts to become very clear.

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