The Anthropocene, or the age of man, is a brand new geological time interval outlined by humankind’s huge influence on our planet. The widespread use of the time period Anthropocene dates again to 2000 and is attributed to chemist Paul Crutzen and diatom researcher Eugene Stoermer. It now has a ebook and podcast named after it, each by well-known writer John Inexperienced.
I’ve been fascinated by the Anthropocene because the first time I heard about it. The concept that one species can so basically change the trajectory of a planet boggles my thoughts, at the same time as I learn proof fairly repeatedly that we’re doing simply that.
The techno-optimist in me needs to imagine the issues we’ve brought on are solvable. Additionally it is the a part of me that gives me with the hope to proceed working within the area of round economic system. The thought that always creeps in, although, as I take into consideration how people can clear up the mess we’ve created, is definitely fairly completely different: What if people all of a sudden disappeared tomorrow? Then what?
“The World With out Us” by journalist and award-winning writer Alan Weisman was revealed in 2007. The ebook was named finest nonfiction ebook of 2007 by Time Journal. I learn it over a decade in the past, however nonetheless give it some thought virtually day by day and picked it up once more just lately for one more look. The ebook was described as “one of many grandest thought experiments of our time” by educator, writer and environmentalist Invoice McKibben. When you ask me, it nonetheless reads like that in the present day.
Weisman imagines in nice element what would occur to Earth if people disappeared utterly and virtually instantly. You’ll be able to envision Kang and Kodos (from “The Simpsons”) selecting everybody up all of sudden of their spacecraft to take us again to Rigel VII.
The ebook attracts on the true outcomes of locations that had been as soon as dominated by people however then deserted, such because the deserted nuclear web site Chernobyl and the war-stricken and abandoned resort city of Varosha. It additionally asks consultants from atmospheric scientists to grease refiners to weigh in on what would occur if people now not inhabited the Earth. A couple of of my favourite examples embody anecdotes about Houston, the poisonous and unnatural soil signature we’ve left and the downfall of the Mayan individuals.
Houston and the story of rubber
The story of Houston’s petrochemical legacy in some methods begins, oddly sufficient, with a pure materials. Pure rubber has many sensible makes use of however does undergo from brittleness when too chilly and softening when too sizzling. Charles Goodyear modified all that together with his discovery of vulcanization in 1839.
The remainder of the story is one which tracks very neatly with our linear economic system. The tire business exploded within the early 1900s, and by the beginning of World Struggle II, pure rubber demand and the usage of vulcanization had been each hovering. A lot of the U.S. rubber provide at the moment got here from Southeast Asia, and being locked out of that market throughout the battle led U.S. scientists to develop artificial rubber.
In different phrases, like many issues in our linear economic system, a pure materials that would biodegrade was supplanted by an artificial materials that can’t, and it was all fueled by petrochemicals.
“The World With out Us” goes on to explain what would finally occur to Houston if people had been gone (assume fires, explosions, poisonous plumes and a really sluggish restoration), however I received’t go into these gory particulars right here.
Soil well being or the shortage thereof
The human legacy on the Earth’s soil looks as if a superb segue from the petrochemical business to the story of the Mayan civilization. In the case of soil, let’s simply agree that people haven’t performed it any favors.
We’ve deliberately and unintentionally added artificial chemical compounds, and we’ve deteriorated soil high quality and amount by monoculture farming and different human actions. We’ve additionally performed fairly a poor job of utilizing the vitamins we’ve pulled from soil and returning them again to the place they belong.
The poisonous fingerprints of our existence embody will increase in heavy metals, persistent natural pollution and acidification. That is, once more, in service of an extractive economic system that favors short-term achieve over long-term sustainability.
The collapse of the Mayan civilization
The story of the Mayan individuals nonetheless astonishes researchers. All proof factors to a society that survived — nay, thrived — in a largely peaceable existence for not less than 1,600 years.
Sooner or later, although, that order broke down, and some mixture of drought, meals shortages, greed and battle shortly destroyed all the pieces that had been constructed. Inside solely 100 years, the Mayan civilization was gone.
Whatever the mixture of things that led to the demise, although, extractive practices, greed and development at any value had been on the core.
Use your creativeness
So what can we do about it? I usually discuss the necessity to use creativity and to unlearn our deeply ingrained linear habits and practices to step ahead towards a round future. I believe studying a ebook comparable to “The World With out Us” and fascinated about this new geologic period we’ve created might be instructive in doing simply that.
With that, my problem is to ask your organizations to examine what indelible mark any new services or products may go away on the planet, both positively or negatively, and weigh that towards the general worth of placing it out on the planet within the first place.
It’s intriguing for me to assume that as a result of we’ve altered the planet so shortly and so completely, that possibly we even have an identical skill to repair it? If the planet’s degradation was brought on by exterior forces, it is likely to be tough to wrap our heads round fixing the issue. Being that we’ve created the issue, although, possibly we will simply reverse-engineer our method to higher outcomes?