welcome to the anthropocene

A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.

According to scientists, we’re currently in the geological epoch known as the Holocene, which has lasted for the last 12,000 years. The Holocene encompasses the rise of humanity since the last ice age. But some scientists think we have actually entered a new era, called the Anthropocene–an era in which the world no longer shapes humanity, but in which humanity shapes the world to its own purpose and does so to such an extent that it will have permanent effects of the geological record of our planet.

As scientists debate the merits of declaring we are in a new epoch (these things take time and lots of arguing), humanity plods on, continuing to make a massive impact on the planet. Globaia, an organization devoted to promoting an understanding of “big history,” has been working on mapping these impacts.

As the animated globe turns, you can see what man has wrought upon the planet. The glowing maps show transportation routes and power grids that span the globe. It’s certainly an impressive accomplishment. You can’t but be in awe of the sheer will and determination and skill it’s taken to create this globalized world. At the same time, it’s hard not to gasp at the scale of what we’ve done.

The geological clock: a projection of Earth's ...

Check out the rapid rise of our influence on the planet since 1950. In the course of one lifetime, the lives of the vast majority of people have improved dramatically. That’s the good part of the Anthropocene. The bad is that to get there, we’ve had to fundamentally change the planet–its air, water, and land may never be the same.

Either that’s a devilish paradox or perhaps we never need to “change the earth to fit humans” anyway.  I’ll bet my next pay check on the latter…

Personally, I think we’ve made a flippin mess!!


One thought on “welcome to the anthropocene

  1. Very interesting look at the geological history of our planet, and the seemingly daunting future we have ahead of we don’t get it together. One not about the video portion though: the narrator mentions that we are the first generation to realize a new responsibility to “find a safe operating space for humanity, for the sake of future generations.” This is far from the truth, and the ancestors of many cultures (especially indigenous population of the Americas, Africa, and Asia) have been saying this all along. I think what she means is that we, the most current generations, are finally beginning to take heed!!

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous :)

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