Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

The Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we going?

Butembo 18.04.2022 Jpic-jp.org Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

Human beings have existed for just 200,000 years, yet our impact on the planet is so great that scientists around the world are calling for our period in the Earth’s history to be named the ‘Anthropocene‘ – the age of humans. The changes we are now making have exacted a heavy toll on the natural world around us. It is vital that people understand the impact we have. The war between Russia and Ukraine, as always when human event is used as press scoop and geopolitical tool, even though tragic, is distracting from other dramatic urgencies. 

Using Earth system analysis, we can have a very clear lecture on climate change. Human pressures on the planet as a whole – the ‘Earth System’ – have now become greatest as never before. Wars in Ukraine, DRC, Yemen and everywhere are making the situation worse. The scientists are suggesting that we have left the Holocene - the 11,700-year geologic epoch that has been humans’ accommodating home, and have entered a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene.

Two hundred years ago, there were less than a billion people on Earth. Today, there are 7.9bn and our population is still growing. According to the United Nations, there is likely to be 30% more of us by 2050 and 11 billion people by 2100.

Every one of us places demands upon our planet - the very demands that have caused the changes that threaten us, and the natural world we depend on.

Because of industry, agriculture and fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide in the air is at its highest level for millions of years. At the same time, disruption of other chemical cycles is turning seas and rivers into dead zones.

Climate change is already affecting the world around us. Global warming is causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, species to go extinct and severe weather events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes to increase.

This new epoch, therefore, is characterized by extremely rapid changes to the climate system driven primarily, even not only, by human emissions of greenhouse gases and growing degradation of the planet’s biosphere, pushed by a range of direct and indirect human pressures.

The question is, where is the Anthropocene heading humanity and the planet as a whole? The current trajectory of the Earth System is a rapid exit from the Holocene – the epoch during which humanity succeeded in accommodating itself on the planet as its home -, accelerating towards a much hotter climate system and a degraded, ill-functioning biosphere. Perhaps most concerning is a possible ‘fork in the road’ beyond which lies ‘Hothouse Earth’.

The key element of this trajectory is a ‘tipping cascade’, in which a series of interlinked tipping points – the melting of polar ice, the conversion of forest biomes to grasslands or savannas, changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation – take control of the trajectory of the Earth System. It is moving it to a much hotter, biodiversity-impoverished, but a new stable state, that the scientists call Anthropocene.

Professor Will Steffen (Climate Council of Australia, Australian National University) argues that avoiding this possible tipping cascade requires fundamental changes in human societies. These changes include not only advances in technologies but also more fundamental changes in societal structures and core values.

We can and must ease the pressure on our world. As individuals and communities, we can take action such as buying less, reusing and recycling more, moving towards a plant-based diet and ensuring what we do use and consume is as sustainable as possible.

The demands and needs of new people joining the population have to find society prepare to welcome them in a sustainable way. Therefore, we need to tackle overconsumption in wealthy nations and work to advance global justice and eco-friendlier economic systems. These efforts ask the political and economic choices of large spectrum. What is amazing, in a certain way, is how governments are still investing in arms and destruction tools that worsen the situation, instead of addressing the Earth System’s growing degradation. However, this growing degradation asks also the commitment of everyone, since all political and economic choice is an answer to people claims.

See The Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we going?  (English, short version, 9m) or The Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we going?  (English, full version, 42 m)

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