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Welcome to the Anthropocene!

Anthropocene, Technosphere, Great Acceleration, Sixth Extinction – a lot is being written about these ideas, both in the press and in scientific literature. But what exactly do these terms mean? To begin with,  what precisely is the Anthropocene? What are the scientific, ethical and political  implications of this hotly debated concept? The term  – anthropo for human, and cene for new –  was coined at the end of the twentieth century with the view to label a new geological epoch which we may have entered, following significant changes to Earth’s ecosystem as a result of human activity.

We are witnessing the disappearance of animal and plant species at an unprecedented rate since human life began. The Technosphere – which comprises the array of technological materials that we use, or have used and discarded – has reached a massive 30,000 billion tons. Climate change is affecting every aspect of our lives, including security, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world.

Some consider that this new epoch is the consequence of an irresponsible capitalist system,  and prefer to use the term Capitalocene. Others see humans as a geological force that could usher in a Sixth Extinction long before its time. But is humankind really on the verge of a catastrophe?

With such dire forecasts of doom causing widespread angst among people everywhere, the Courier  asked a broad spectrum of experts from the sciences, including geologists and biologists, and the humanities – political scientists, sociologists, economists, and historians – to present their  views on the question in its Wide Angle section. The experts come from different geographical and cultural backgrounds and have avoided the use of jargon. But just in case anyone still feels lost, a  Lexicon  of words for this new age of humans is included, to guide the reader through.  


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Posted on : Apr 01, 2019