The Anthropocene:Where on Earth are We Going? Will Steffen
Photos: Tas van Ommen, Australian Antarctic Division
Human Development and Earth System Dynamics Beginning of agricultureEvolution of fully modern Hunter-gatherer societies only humans in Africa Adapted from Steffen et al. 2004; ice core data from Petit et al. 1999
Human Development and Earth System Dynamics Holocene First migration of Aborigines Migrations from Beginning Great Asian,fully modern humans arrive in South Asia of European, African, out of Africa Australia to Europe agriculture American civilisations Source: GRIP ice core data (Greenland) and S. Oppenheimer, ”Out of Eden”, 2004
Fires, Floods and Cyclones: A window into the future in the Anthropocene?
Human Imprint on Marine EcosystemsGlobally 74-78% of allfish stocks are fullyexploited, over-exploited,depleted or are recoveringfrom depletion Atlantic cod fishery Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005, Steffen et al. 2004
Human Imprint on the Terrestrial Biosphere From landscapes to genes…
Anthropocene graphsVertical axis is ahuman activity or animpact on the Earth !!!!System. All variablesshown in a linearscale. Steffen et al. 2004
The Human Enterprise• Population• Economic Growth• Freshwater use• Resource consumption- fertilizer, paper• Urbanization• Globalization• Transport• Communication Note ”The Great Acceleration” from 1950 to 2000 From Steffen et al. 2004
The Global Impact• Greenhouse gases• Ozone depletion• Climate• Marine ecosystems• Coastal zone• Nitrogen cycle• Tropical forests• Land systems• Biodiversity From: Steffen et al. 2004
Visualising the Great Acceleration I=PxAxT I - impact P - population A - affluence T - technologyNational Geographic, March 2011 Holdren and Ehrlich 1974; National Geographic 2012
The dilemma of the AnthropoceneGlobal Impact Human well-being Source: Moran et al., Ecological Economics, 64, 470-474, 2008
The 21st Century:A bright future of continued growth? Or… …saililng towards a global collapse?
Ø111#14 Ø111#15 Ø1a Ø111#13 V51#2 Ø149#7 V7K-4120 Ø149#10 V7#174 Ø66#23 V51#4 V51#254 Ø149#8 Ø149#213 Jette Arneborg Ø149#9 Ø23a Ø111#207 Ø111#206 Ø23b Arch dates Ø1bThe Greenland Norse V51#6 Ø149#215 V51#5 V51#3 V51#247 V51#184 AU III - c. 1300 - 1450 V51#255 V51#249 Ø149#228 Ø149#227 Ø149#226 Ø149#224 Ø149#222 Ø149#221 Ø149#220 Ø23a AU II - c. 1160 - 1300 All samples V7K-4117 V51#256 V51#250 Ø66#24 V51#1 V51#253 Ø47#21 Ø111#210 Ø111#208 V51#258 AU I - c. 980 - 1160 Ø149#216 Ø149#214 Ø111#205 Ø167 Ø47#22 Ø47#20 V7#175 Ø35a Tj#19 Tj#26 Tj#27 Tj#16 Tj#25 Ø48b Tj#12 V51#240 Year V51#197 Ø48a AD Ø35b Ø35c Tj#11 Ø35a Tj#28 Tj#18
The Roman Empire: Resilience and Constraints Lower Rhone Valley 1000 BC - 1000 AD Roman Settlement PatternsSander van der Leeuw
North American Societies: Resilience, Transformation and Collapse Droughts 25th percentile threshold Droughts 10th percentile threshold 1000 1025 1050 1075 1100 1125 1150 1175 1200 1225 1250 1275 1300 1325 1350 1375 1400 1425 1450 1475 1500 Reorganizati Re- Regional on from aggrega depopulation large tion villages to dispersed hamletsMichelle Hegmon Dennis Ho
Possible Explanations for the Collapse of Early Civilisations• Tainter - increasing complexity & decreasing resilience• Friedman - waves of ’globalisation’ to an upper limit of system compatibility• Diamond - inflexibility of core societal values
On the techno-scientific approach to progress “…if we focus on other features of the past than humanity’s progress, we might find a human history marked by crises, regime shifts, disasters, and constantly changing patterns of adjustment to limits and confines. Indeed, this now emerges as a new historical meta- narrative, linking humanity’s creative past with its destructive consequences and nature-culture interplay…” Sverker Sörlin & Paul Warde 2007
The Anthropocene in the 21st century: The 2000-2010 Decade• China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and others are beginning their Great Acceleration.• The world is reaching hyper-connectivity - the global financial crisis• We are reaching several “peaks” – oil, phosphorus, health?• Humans have constructed an artificial chromosome and inserted it into DNA; towards synthesis of life itself Steffen et al. 2011
Biodiversity in the 21st century• Humans have increased the species extinction rate by as much as 1,000 times over background rates typical over Extinction Rate the planet’s history.• 10–30% of mammal, bird, and amphibian species are currently Distant Recent Future threatened with extinction. Past Past Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005
Oil and food price trends, 1999 - 2011 World Bank Commodity Price Data FAO Food Price Index
Analysis of the Global Food Crisis: A Systems PerspectiveGlobal-scale linkage of processes producing shocksthat emerge simultaneously, spread rapidly and interact.The ingredients for a cascading crisis?• Powerful global scale drivers (oil price spike)• Propagation of shocks through increased global connectivity• Knock-on effects of management responses elsewhere Biggs et al. 2010
The Earth as a Complex System Glacial state Interglacial (warm) state Sources: Petit et al. 1999; Scheffer 2009
The Earth as a Complex System Limit CyclesCO2TemperatureCH4 Sources: Petit et al. 1999; Scheffer 2009
Temperature rise:Beyond the envelope of natural variability? Northern hemisphere surface temperature Post-industrial temperature rise Mann et al. 2003 (EOS)
Implications of accelerating climate change IPCC temperature projections IPCC 2007
6 Earth System moves to a new IPCC Projections state? Severe challenge to 5 2100 AD contemporary civilisation. Possible collapse? Temperature (°C) 4 Global 3 2Temperature 1 1 Now N.H. (°C) 0.5 0 0 -0.5 200 600 1000 1400 1800 2000 IGBP PAGES
Implications of the Anthropocene Transition to a new, much hotter state of the Earth System?Tipping Point? Return towards a Holocene-like state?
Biogeochemistry: Ozone Global N & P depletion Atmospheric Cycles Aerosol LoadingClimateChange Planetary Chemical Pollution Boundaries Rate of GlobalBiodiversity Freshwater Loss Use Land System Ocean Change acidification Rockström et al. 2009
Defining the safe operating space Rockström et al. 2009
Evolution and the Anthropocene Darwin’s insights about the origin of humans - that we are apes, a part of nature (not above it) - challenged deeply held beliefs about the human- environment relationship.Will the Anthropocene evoke a similar level of deep emotionin the public? Can humanity really affect the functioning of its ownlife support system at the planetary scale? What are theimplications of this for our definition of “progress”, our way of lifeand our future? Source: Katherine Richardson, Copenhagen University
Perspectives on the Human- Environment RelationshipHurt not the earth, neither the sea,nor the trees.Revelation 7:3, the Holy Bible
Most Gracious is Allah, Who reveals HimselfIn the Quran, in mans IntelligenceAnd in the nature around man.Balance and Justice, Goodness and Care,Are the Laws of His Worlds.... Summary from Surah 55, the Holy Quran
Without the willow, how to know the beauty of the wind. Lao She, Buddhist monk
Were only here for a short amount of time to do what wevebeen put here to do, which is to look after the country.Were only a tool in the cycle of things. …(we) go out intothe world and help keep the balance of nature. Its a bigcycle of living with the land, and then eventually going backto it.... Vilma Webb, Noongar People, Australian Aborigines, from: Elders: Wisdom from Australias Indigenous Leaders’
The Anthropocene… Sebastião Salgado…where on Earth are we going?
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