Magazine article Geographical

Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene

Magazine article Geographical

Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene

Article excerpt

DEFIANT EARTH: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene by Clive Hamilton; Polity Books; [pounds sterling]14.99 (paperback)

Our new epoch started with a bang. The rapid increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began with the Industrial Revolution but really kicked in during 1945, with the first nuclear detonations, and has effectively split the planet's history in two: the initial 4.5 billion years of its existence in thrall to blind natural forces; the remaining five billion, between now and the death of the sun, irrevocably to be governed by human agency, even after our species has expired. The term 'Anthropocene', Hamilton argues, is intended to describe this rupture in the functioning of the Earth System (the notion that the planet is a unified, evolving, complex system rather than an aggregate of individual ecosystems), and only became accepted in the last few decades.

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Much of Hamilton's book is geared towards emphasising these definitions, and refuting alternative claims that the Anthropocene is simply the period during which human activity has acted as a major factor in modifying landscape and environment; that it merely acts as a measure of the human footprint, and is thus neutral, if not positively benign. …

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