Aug 022011

Finally, a voice of reason.

I just read an opinion piece in New Scientist by Erle Ellis. His message is simple: Welcome to the Anthropocene. Ellis believes that the geological epoch called the Holocene is over; the landscape of the Earth has been altered irreversibly by humans, but not all such change is bad or unwelcome. In any case, there is no turning back. The question is not how to undo what we have done, but how to create a better, more sustainable Anthropocene, as we have become the creators, engineers, and stewards of this world.

This has also been my opinion for a long time. Humans are no less “natural” than apes, ants, whales, or trees. By extension, a skyscraper or a factory are no less natural than an anthill or a bird’s nest. However, it has happened in the past that a species overwhelmed and destroyed the environment in which it once thrived. Humans can suffer the same fate… except that we do possess oversize brains and the ability to plan ahead in the long term. What we need is not some romantic notion of a “pristine planet”, but to learn how to manage a planet of finite resources that is dominated, and irreversibly altered, by our presence.

 Posted by at 12:27 pm