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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 10(4)

Perspectives on our planet in the Anthropocene

Jonathan Williams A B and Paul J. Crutzen A

A Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, D-55128 Mainz, Germany.
B Corresponding author. Email: jonathan.williams@mpic.de

Environmental Chemistry 10(4) 269-280 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EN13061
Submitted: 19 March 2013  Accepted: 27 May 2013   Published: 20 August 2013

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Environmental context. The term Anthropocene has been proposed as a name for the present geological epoch in recognition of the recent rise of humans to being a geophysical force of planetary importance. This paper provides an overview of humanity’s global impact in terms of population, energy and food demands, climate, air and ocean pollution, biodiversity and erosion, before giving a perspective on our collective future in the Anthropocene.

Abstract. Within the last 70 years (an average person's lifetime), the human population has more than tripled. Our energy, food and space demands as well as the associated waste products have affected the Earth to such an extent that humanity may be considered a geophysical force in its own right. As a result it has been proposed to name the current epoch the ‘Anthropocene’. Here we draw on a broad range of references to provide an overview of these changes in terms of population, energy and food demands, climate, air and ocean pollution, biodiversity and erosion. The challenges for the future in the Anthropocene are highlighted. We hope that in the future, the ‘Anthropocene’ will not only be characterised by continued human plundering of the Earth’s resources and dumping of excessive amounts of waste products in the environment, but also by vastly improved technology and management, wise use of the Earth’s resources, control of the human and domestic animal population, and overall careful manipulation and restoration of the natural environment.

This paper is the first in a series of annual invited papers commemorating Professor Sherwood (Sherry) Rowland, Nobel laureate and founding Board Member of Environmental Chemistry.


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