Over the past 50 years, humans have changed the world’s ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any other comparable period in human history.
What researchers in a new Ambio paper are calling 'The Great Acceleration', stage 2 of the Anthropocene epoch, leads to questions how humankind will react in stage 3 - defined as the recognition that human activities are indeed affecting the structure and functioning of the Earth System as a whole.
Increased research and understanding, the Internet, and more free and open societies have influenced humanity to become a self-conscious, active agent in the operation of its own life support system. The new study discusses the three known broad philosophical approaches that address the Earth System; the business-as-usual approach, mitigation, and geo-engineering options.
The business-as-usual approach is based on three assumptions. First, global change will not be severe or rapid enough to cause major disruptions. Second, the existing market-oriented economic system can deal autonomously with any required adaptations. And third, resources required to mitigate global change proactively would be better spent on more pressing human needs.
By the time humans realize that a business-as-usual approach may not work, the world will be committed to further decades of environmental change.
The second approach, mitigation, is an alternative pathway based on the notion that the threat of further global change is serious enough that it must be dealt with immediately and by curbing greenhouse gases. Technology will play a strong role in reducing the pressure on the Earth System. The critical question is whether the trends of dematerialization and shifting societal values become strong enough to trigger a transition of a globalized society toward a much more sustainable one.
The third approach, geo-engineering, involves purposeful manipulation by humans of global-scale processes with the intention of counteracting human-driven environmental change. Geo-engineering solutions raise serious ethical questions and intense debate, such as when unintended and unanticipated side effects of the solutions have severe consequences.
According to the report, The Great Acceleration is reaching criticality. Enormous challenges confront humanity in the next few decades as we pass through the bottleneck of continued population growth, excessive resource use, and environmental deterioration. In most parts of the world, the demand for fossil fuels overwhelms the desire to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Whatever unfolds, the next few decades will surely be a tipping point in the evolution of the Anthropocene.
Article: The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?, Will Steffen, Paul J. Crutzen and John R. McNeill, Ambio, Volume 36, Issue 8 (December 2007)
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Your Probiotic Probably Has Gluten
- Mystery Of Morgellons - Disease Or Delusion - Scientific Hypothesis Of Connection With Lyme Disease
- Will We Soon Have A 2-D Liquid?
- Bang !! 13 TeV - The Highest Energy Ever Achieved By Mankind ?!
- Mummy Madness In The Anatomical Record - All Open Access
- 'Natural' Sounds Improve May Improve Office Mood And Productivity
- The Case Of The Missing Booze: Brits Drink 12 Million More Bottles Per Week Than Previous Estimates
- "Whatever that RT thing is writes that same article every 6 months, and every 6 months someone has..."
- "Here's one good answer to the question of your title: http://rt.com/news/261673-india-gmo..."
- "I'm fine, don't have Morgellons or chronic lyme disease, and thinking about the condition doesn't..."
- "[t]he only thing that can set us right is a katalepsis, a seizure by grace, something transformative..."
- "Well, Soon after having sent my previous comment I got a message from Neil Sloane that he had published..."
- Savannahs slow climate change
- Sudden onset of ice loss in Antarctica detected
- Proton therapy has fewer side effects in esophageal cancer patients
- Mood instability common to mental health disorders and associated with poor outcomes
- Depression associated with 5-fold increase in mortality risk for heart failure patients