An anthropocentric Anthropocene would be very short

New Scientist interviews journalist and biologist, Christian Schwägerl:

What does the term Anthropocene – the proposed name for the geological era we live in – mean to you?

Many people view the Anthropocene merely as the sum of all environmental problems. For me it is also the process of becoming aware of our collective responsibility in shaping the future Earth. Can we create a better or even positive geological record that will later tell the story of a planet that regenerated from exploitation?

Isn’t there a danger that if we define it as a geological era it will do the opposite and absolve people of responsibility?

There’s a risk that the Anthropocene idea is misunderstood as human entitlement to control planet Earth. That interpretation couldn’t be more wrong. The Anthropocene should be the age of responsibility, cooperation, creativity, inventiveness and humility. Fortunately, I see the debate moving in this direction.

A paper in Nature this week looked at arguments for an official start date for the Anthropocene. What’s your view?

The working group on the Anthropocene – part of the International Union of Geological Sciences – favours a date around 1950, because nuclear explosions and the start of modern consumerism really started to have long-term effects on the biosphere.

So how can we make something positive out of the Anthropocene?

The biggest challenge is to become less anthropocentric: we should stop optimising the planet for our short-term needs. Our economic system needs to start valuing healthy rainforest and the interests of future inhabitants of Earth. An anthropocentric Anthropocene would be very short. [Continue reading…]

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