Mapping the Anthropocene

A new article up over at the Breakthrough Institute on Mapping the Anthropocene. It is by Erle Ellis, Navin Ramankutty and Chad Monfreda. It is certainly worth a read, and don’t be misled by the subtitle “Visualizing How Humans Are Embedded in Nature” – especially if you don’t think there is a “Nature” for humans to be embedded into.


Here’s the intro and some quick samples: India_grain

“Any ecology student could tell you what biomes are: vegetation types, such as grasslands and tropical rainforests, that ecologists use to map the planet. But there’s a problem. Biomes exist only at the discretion of nearly 7 billion people trying to live their lives on a crowded planet.

Invert that ancient image of invasive humans chopping away at the edges of a pristine nature. The era has long since moved from the Holocene to the Anthropocene. Nature is now embedded within a matrix of human-altered croplands, pastures, towns and cities. These anthropogenic biomes — “anthromes” for short — offer a fresh way of seeing our planetary pastiche.”


New Journal: The Anthropocene Review

A new journal is now being published with Sage titled The Anthropocene Review.ANR

Here is the “aims and scope” of the new publication that I snagged from the blog where you can also find information on submissions, the editorial board, and this link to the first editorial (opens to PDF).

“The overall aim of the new journal is to communicate clearly and across a wide range of disciplines and interests, the causes, history, nature and implications of a world in which human activities are integral to the functioning of the Earth System. The concept of the Anthropocene has, since its initial promulgation, provoked a great deal of debate, raising challenging questions of focus and definition. My aim in this short introduction is to be indicative rather than prescriptive and thereby, both to encourage high quality, stimulating contributions to the new journal and to foster further debate on the concept of the Anthropocene within its pages and via this blog.

As Bill Ruddiman has shown, many of the problems that have been exacerbated by human activities over the last 2 – 3 centuries have a long history that cannot be ignored. That said, human impacts in the wake of the Industrial Revolution go far beyond increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations and their consequences. They include resource depletion and innumerable forms of environmental pollution, as well as the myriad of other consequences, social, economic and political linked to the rapid growth of human populations and the spread of globalization. Towards the end of his recent review Ruddiman suggests a two stage Anthropocene, pre-industrial and post AD 1850. This, as he notes, leads us away from a formal definition of the Anthropocene to a more informal one. In reality, we see a three stage Anthropocene, with a third stage postdating what Steffen et al. call the Great Acceleration from AD 1950 onwards.

We now living at a time over six decades on from the start of the Great Acceleration. During that time, not only has the pace of change accelerated, but so has the range of impacts, the awareness of their implications among both environmental and social scientists and the general public, the development of research tools to explore present conditions and likely future trends and the engagement with global change themes across an wide range of disciplines, spanning the whole spectrum from engineering to the humanities. This therefore must be the core timeframe for the wide-ranging concerns of the new journal, though it is important that wherever possible, studies should be put in the context of the longer-term evolution of the human-environment relationship. The drivers and legacy of human-environmental interactions during the pre-industrial and industrial periods cannot be ignored. Irrespective of the timeframe within which contributions are placed, or indeed the lack, or transgression of time frames, there are important criteria and priorities to be considered in framing the aims and scope of the new journal: (i) global, or at least major continental/ocean basin significance in any environmental processes, human activities or human-environment interactions under consideration (we aim to emphasize ‘macroscale’ perspectives on processes potentially affecting earth and global systems); (ii) significant contributions to the understanding of present day problems of human-environmental relations and their perception, assimilation and transformation into effective action (this implies engagement with the analytical and modelling methods that are needed to underpin decision-making in response to complex human-environment interactions or social-ecological systems) ; (iii) relevance to our appraisal of future trends, threats and alternative responses; (iv) the development of conceptual frameworks for defining and communicating the challenges of the Anthropocene beyond the specialist scientific community; (v) the portrayal and evaluation of key political responses among the major economies; (vi) the articulation of cultural, behavioural, ethical and aesthetic responses to current and future global change in different societies (vii) evaluation of new technologies appropriate to the emerging problems posed by human activities and climate change (viii) engagement with issues of governance, sustainability and human health under changing environmental and demographic conditions.”