The age of humans has arrived: the Anthropocene. What is the Anthropocene, and how should we deal with it?
Or to be fair: technically we still live in the Holocene. The Holocene is a period that began 11.700 years ago, when the last ice age ended. However, more and more people (scientists) are convinced the Holocene ended in the middle of the last century, to make way for the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a different era. It’s an era characterized by the huge impact of humans on their planet. In this era, human beings will change their atmosphere and their climate. In this process, species will (almost) extinct, forests will be cut down and the oceans will be polluted. The human being has penetrated into the pores of the earth, leaving a trail of destruction. During the Anthropocene, everything will change forever.
Anthropocene or not? Geologists can’t agree
While we see the earth changing in front of our eyes, geologists can’t agree on the signals of the Anthropocene. They are searching for a signal, to be found in the layers of the earth, that characterizes the start of the Anthropocene, and thus the end of the Holocene. The discussion is ongoing, and until a decision has been made, the Anthropocene is only and informal term, first used about 75 years ago.
A different concept
So, although scientists can’t really agree on whether we are officially living in the Anthropocene, we can see with our own eyes that we live in a ‘conceptually different time’. This is how Faber calls it in his new book. Living in the Anthropocene is not easy. In order to survive in this new era, we need to look differently to ourselves, nature and our planet. In the Anthropocene, we will need to search for new solutions within a new concept of ‘earth’.
A different earth as we know it
According to Faber, we should accept three different things.
The past wasn’t better
We need to leave the idea that the world is in destruction and is was better in the past. The Anthropocene is a result of a certain development. The development has indeed also brought good things, like social-economic development concerning social equality.
No way back
There is no way back. We can only go forward. We can only preserve the good things we have, while trying to change the bad things.
Causes and consequences, humans and nature are intertwined
Leave the idea of a strict separation between human beings and nature. People and nature are more and more intertwined. This has made the world a lot more complex. As a result, causes and consequences have mixed. For example: during droughts we ask ourselves whether it’s the result of climate change of human action? However, it is more difficult to distinguish between these two.
A second example is the urban areas we live in. It appears that animals adapt quite well to this new environment. Animals sing louder in order to overrule the noises in the city. And the legs of lizards in the city change to be more functional in the urban environment. As the difference between causes and consequences, humans and nature intertwine, complex problems arise. Like climate change. How to resolve these? Or are they unsolvable, and all we can do is trying to keep them under control?
What is the Anthropocene, and what is our personal contribution?
Let us be clear: we all contribute to the problem. Responsibility lays with individuals. We tent to easily look at governments and their responsibility to solve problems. Recently, all eyes were on the climate summit in Katowice. We have to accept that change comes from individuals, and we can’t rely on governments or institutions to solve this important and threatening problem. We have contributed to the problem and we have to deal with the consequences. This is our responsibility. Of course, our actions have consequences, and these consequences continue into the future.
In the complex urban environment, man has created its own environment. It makes that we feel weird having to deal with change. In our complex world, we cannot hide in our own cities. We have to face the changes that emerge. In the Anthropocene we need to take responsibility. This means we cannot blame big companies, industries, institutions and governments.
We have a role in the changing world. We complain about CO2 emissions, but at the same time we take a plane to go on holiday. In some areas in the world, population is declining. However, every individual is a new creative mind that can contribute to our world. Every individual has a role, also individuals in Africa and Asia, which are areas that have an increasing population. Overcrowding in cities doesn’t have to be a problem, as long as everyone can contribute.
We can embrace our new climate in the Anthropocene
In discussions on climate change, many people say that we near the end. As if it’s a few minutes before the end of the world as we know it. Faber, however, rather likes to say that we are already in the Anthropocene. The world is already changing. We can better embrace our new world and deal with it, instead of worrying what happens in the near future. Like animals in urban environments, we have to accept and adapt to our new living environment.
As we live in the Anthropocene, or at least in a different time, the first thing we need to do is to embrace our new era. We need to accept a different world, that has changed forever due to our own actions. Our world will never be the same again. Embrace the Anthropocene or, in other words, embrace our new reality. However, you want to call it.
However, accepting that the world has changed doesn’t mean we need to accept changes in the future. As I mentioned before, we can still preserve our world as it is, and prevent further changes to destroy the good things we have. This is another perspective. It puts us on a different stage. Instead of looking backwards on how the world has changed in the past, we now need to look forward and realize how the world might change in the future due to our own actions. We can then ask ourselves: What can we do to preserve the good things we have left on our planet?