‘The Anthropocene’ is a concept that has become central to the planetary boundaries discourse. In summary, it raises the alarm that we are moving out of the favourable conditions of the Holocene into a new geological epoch created entirely by the activities of mankind: the Anthropocene. And it looks set to be an era that will not prove quite as supportive of humanity’s growth, development, or even continued existence.
Yet where did this geological concept come from? And how has this concept, to use Victor Anderson’s phrase, “travelled such a long way in such a short time”? The ‘Anthropocene’ makes some very big claims; not least that the (relatively recent) changes in the Earth System are as significant as those geological epochs that have defined the development of our planet, and that these planetary changes stem from the activities of our species.
In an exclusive preview for the PBI, Victor Anderson has made available his chapter that explores the development of the concept of the Anthropocene in geology, through the social sciences, and finally – and arguably most importantly – its implications and uses in political discourse. He examines the reluctance of geologists versus the enthusiasm of social scientists to recognise the validity of the concept, and the evolutionary context that has dovetailed with the plantetary boundaries framework. An economist by profession, Anderson further questions whether the Anthropocene has potential to be a unifying concept with economic and other frameworks for human society and development.
An essential read: Victor Anderson Anthropocene: Journey of a Concept