Anthropozoic Graffiti

“Many stratigraphers have come to believe that we are such an event–that human beings have so altered the planet in just the past century or two that we’ve ushered in a new epoch: the Anthropocene” (Kolbert 1).  There is no doubt humans have had a significant impact on earth, E. O. Wilson has written. Wilson calculates that human biomass is already a hundred times larger than that of any other large animal species that has ever walked the Earth (Kolbert 1).  Malm may argue that it is only a subset of humans driving the change we are experiencing, but humans still.  Do we have to reach a specific number who have contributed to somehow qualify the effect we have had on the earth.  I tend to agree with that with industrialization in the early 1800’s, the Anthropocene started in earnest (Steffan et. al 616).  I also agree with Crutzen, who started the debate, thinks its real value won’t lie in revisions to geology textbooks…: He wants to focus our attention on the consequences of our collective action–and on how we might still avert the worst. “What I hope is that the term ‘Anthropocene’ will be a warning to the world” (Kolbert 5).

The whole conversation in America, and around the world, has become divisive so it’s no surprise there is a polarized view of climate change. No one wants to be ostracized or labeled as an outsider.  It’s simple human nature. Unfortunately, it suits certain groups to encourage divisiveness across as many spectrums as possible. If we are busy arguing among ourselves, it’s easier for those groups to push their agenda. We need civil conversation and respect combined with the understanding that people have different opinions.  If we are so divided that we can’t even sit down at the table to discuss our differences, we are never going to even get a start on solving the big issues.

1 thought on “Anthropozoic Graffiti”

  1. Hello William, I must say your post is very articulate and well argued! I fully agree that we’re just going to run ourselves in circles if we don’t take the time to listen to one another. With that said, I hope you don’t mind reading a response by somebody who rejects the Anthropocene label. You ask what number of people need to contribute to environmental problems in order to meet Malm’s quota, but I don’t think that’s what he’s arguing.

    In my mind, he’s illustrating the fact that the term “Anthropocene” is too vague to be helpful. If we don’t specify the source, we won’t get anywhere. A good example of this is the London cholera outbreak (circa 1854) which killed hundreds of people. A man by the name of Dr. John Snow decided to figure out what was making so many people sick. It was already known that cholera was spread by contaminated water, but that generalization wasn’t enough to help Dr. Snow locate the source. He needed to hone down and specify exactly where the illness was stemming from, and hone down he did. Lo and behold, he traced the cholera to a single well on Broad Street. So while Anthropocene is technically correct (indeed humans are the cause of climate change and other environmental issues), it doesn’t tell you WHICH humans are responsible. That also just seems unfair to people in developing countries who have very little say in anything more powerful nations do.

    Some info on Dr. Snow’s work is anybody is interested:

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