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The Geography of our Future: Understanding the consequences of the Anthropocene

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Mark Maslin and Danny Dorling, Royal Geographical Society Monday night lecture, April 25th 2016

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The Geography of our Future: Understanding the consequences of the Anthropocene

  1. 1. Mark Maslin and Danny Dorling Geography of our Future: Understanding the consequences of the Anthropocene 1
  2. 2. Are we already in the Anthropocene? 2
  3. 3. Are humans a geological superpower? 3
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. Half of all Nitrogen fixed by humans Greenhouse gases outside glacial-interglacial norms >30% land surface cultivated Sixth mass extinction? 5
  6. 6. 6
  7. 7. We are currently in the Holocene Epoch which started 11,650 BP Geologic Timescale 2012 7
  8. 8. Holocene Epoch Defined by the rise in Deuterium excess in Greenland ice core. That marks the first signs of climatic warming at the end of the Younger Dryas cold phase. 8
  9. 9. Stage 1: Early Agriculture and the age of Empire 9
  10. 10. Ruddiman 2013 Ann. Rev. Earth & Planetary Sciences Agriculture developed independently 10
  11. 11. Have humans prevented a new glaciation? Red, Holocene Blue, mean of previous interglacials, plus standard deviation 11
  12. 12. Roman Empire – very little environmental impact 12
  13. 13. Scale of changes small compared to recent Lewis & Maslin 2015 The Anthropocene Review13
  14. 14. Stage 2: Globalisation of humanity and the dawn of Capitalism 14
  15. 15. 1492 Columbus arrives in the Americas 15
  16. 16. Collision of Old and New Worlds Alfred Crosby 1972 16
  17. 17. Species exchange Benjamin M. Schmidt, Northeastern University, USA 18th and 19th century shipping logs 17
  18. 18. Orbis hypothesis Latin for “World” 50 Million people died in the Americas Lewis & Maslin 2015 The Anthropocene Review 18
  19. 19. Should Anthropocene start at 1610 ACE? Lewis & Maslin 2015 Nature 19
  20. 20. Our thinking changed after 1492 De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) Imagined 1510 Printed 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus 20
  21. 21. In 1631, René Descartes noticed that all around him people had stopped thinking about much more than earning money. He said: ‘In this great city where I am living, with no man apart from myself not being involved in trade, everyone is so intent on his profits that I could spend my whole life without being seen by anyone.’ 21
  22. 22. Angus Maddison’s world data sorted by 16th century rise – www.worldmapper.org Demographic Turmoil 1600-1820 Population (millions) Population change in century (%) 1500 1820 16th 17th 18th Netherlands 1 2 58 27 23 United Kingdom 4 21 57 39 148 China 103 381 55 -14 176 Total Asia 284 710 33 6 77 Total Western Europe 57 133 29 10 63 India 110 209 23 22 27 Japan 15 31 20 46 15 Total Africa 47 74 19 10 22 United States 2 10 -25 -33 898 Total Latin America 18 22 -51 40 79 Mexico 8 7 -67 80 46 Peru 4 1 -68 0 1 Everywhere else 31 92 23 20 101 World Total 438 1042 27 9 73 22
  23. 23. About to explode Charles Darwin – on slow breading mammals… “… after a period of from 740 to 750 years there would be nearly nineteen million elephants alive descended from the first pair. But we have better evidence on this subject than mere theoretical calculations, namely, the numerous recorded cases of the astonishingly rapid increase of various animals in a state of nature, when circumstances have been favourable to them during two or three following seasons. Still more striking is the evidence from our domestic animals of many kinds which have run wild in several parts of the world; 1849 (sixth edition 1873) 23
  24. 24. 24
  25. 25. Stage 3: The Industrial revolutions c. 1800-1950 25
  26. 26. James Watt's industrial steam engine, 1788 26
  27. 27. With the industrial revolutions came a change in our thinking – with the emergence of socialism 27
  28. 28. Stage 4:The Great Acceleration and the birth of Neoliberalism 28
  29. 29. 29
  30. 30. Increasing Global consumption 30
  31. 31. The ‘Great Acceleration’ relative to the bomb spike Lewis and Maslin, Anthropocene Review (2105) using data from Steffen et al. (2015)31
  32. 32. Over 3.5 billion extra people since 1950 32
  33. 33. Global distribution of Population 33
  34. 34. Light Pollution Map by Benjamin Hennig – Sources: http://www.dannydorling.org/books/geography/ 34
  35. 35. Croplands Map by Benjamin Hennig – Sources: http://www.dannydorling.org/books/geography/ 35
  36. 36. Wilderness Map by Benjamin Hennig – Sources: http://www.dannydorling.org/books/geography/ 36
  37. 37. Emergence of Neoliberalism in the 1980s 37
  38. 38. True state of the Modern World 7 million children die needlessly each year 700 million people go to bed hungry every night 1,000 million people no access to clean drinking water 38
  39. 39. • Richest 1% of adults owned 48% of global assets in 2014, 50% by 2015 • Bottom half (3.6 billion people) owned <1% 39
  40. 40. Stage 5:Potential geographies of the Future 40
  41. 41. All current trends are leading to the Perfect Storm Development Population growth 41
  42. 42. Limiting carbon emissions will require substantial and sustained effort (IPCC 2013) 42
  43. 43. Paris COP agreement is very ambitious 43
  44. 44. Is this because we have to many people? Discussions on Global Population and Climate Change seem to raise the same hysteria 44
  45. 45. UN Population growth forecast The world population likely to increase from current 7.3 billion to 9.0 billion in 2100 It need not go higher if we are proactive - Family planning has dropped of the global political agenda over the last 20 years, as has concern over what makes people happier to have fewer children. 45
  46. 46. Your eye is drawn upwards… The middle estimate is so much less shocking than the upper estimate. Hardly anyone ever comments on the lower population estimates the UN has been producing and yet fertility continues to fall. Especially after 2008. 46
  47. 47. Total and per capita emissions – target is 2 tons/capita It is consumption not population that makes the difference 47
  48. 48. Population + Development = faster Climate Change But are all people equal when it comes to polluting the atmosphere? 9 billion people - 2050 Rapid Development >4˚C temperature rise? 48
  49. 49. Is it lack of money that is stopping us helping the poor? Or is tolerance of inequality peculiar to the UK – the most economically unequal country in Europe… GDP growth 1600-2010 UK GDP in 2014 was ~$3000 billion So why are there poor people? 49
  50. 50. Will the future be a healthier one? Source: https://healthyplanetpro.wordpress.com/world-health-stats/ 50
  51. 51. Is progressive and inclusive capitalism – triple bottom line and wealth redistribution enough? 51
  52. 52. The Panama Papers will reveal the scale of our underestimate of the 1% wealth 52
  53. 53. Return to social democracy? Progressive taxation and adopt the universal basic income 53
  54. 54. Why do the Anthropocene and Capitalocene matter? 54
  55. 55. 55 Does defining Human geological time unit matter? The Time Wars
  56. 56. Anthropocene: reinstating human importance after 500 years 56
  57. 57. Good verses Bad Anthropocene? 57 We have a choice!

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