We watched this video today in a class on the anthropology of climate change. It’s very interesting in that it defines and explains the transition from the Holocene to what has come to become called the Anthropocene. According to the speaker (Will Stefan) the most convincing factor for declaring such a transition is the increasing rate of biodiversity loss – much higher than normal “background” levels.
What I find odd about the talk is the final part discussing the concept of “planetary boundaries.” According to the Stefan, we have crossed into the Anthropocene, the question now is whether we want to stay there or to go back to a “safe” Holocene environment. What I think this conception doesn’t account for is the fact that, humans are already a geological force; that the choice presented – between staying in the Anthropocene and going back to the Holocene is a choice that we make with repercussions throughout the planetary system. In that sense, we cannot escape the Anthropocene – we can live in such a way that is more conscious of our effect upon the environment and respect the “boundaries” that the Earth seems to place upon us, but ultimately any choice we make will have massive effects. As a result, I don’t really like the idea of “going back to the holocene” because it suggests a previous natural time when Nature ruled – a golden age (that never existed) when humans simply lived in harmony with the Earth. I would prefer to recognize that we are in the Anthropocene (perhaps that we have been all along), and consider the ethical, and political implications for that. We can’t go back – we must make some serious choices that will ineveitably shape the world we live in. What kind of world do you want to live in?