One day, we will all be dinosaurs. And we are our own Tyrant osaurus Wrecks.
One of the commitments I made to myself during this period of my life was to be socially and environmentally informed. So I’ve signed up to a Coursera course recommended by a friend – The Age of Sustainable Development by Columbia University. This course is regularly oversubscribed and carried out in an engaging manner. The lectures feel very much like an interesting documentary about the world, supplemented with figures, examples and anecdotes and I’ve enjoyed it so far.
One concept that was introduced was “Anthropocene”, derived from the word “anthropos” and “scene”.
Anthropos = human
Scene = age
And it is the term for earth’s current geological age characterised by human activity which has a dominant influence on climate and environment. Here are two articles published recently about this epoch (I didn’t know the meaning of epoch when I first read it either!):
The Anthropocene epoch: Scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age by the Guardian – A pretty formal and scientific article cross-referencing astronomical and geological signals providing evidence of this age. What I thought interesting was this statement “But we are spoiled for choice. There are so many signals.” – No way we can refute the dawn of our age then. We, humans, have taken over the planet.
Climate Change And The Astrobiology Of The Anthropocene by NPR (National Public Radio, US) – An article written by an astrophysics professor, Adam Frank, on astrobiology and anthropocene. A full-length article, but much easier to digest if we center around the idea of earth’s ‘habitability’ for us, humans. Meaning, how suitable earth, as a planet, is, for us humans. Just ignore the Frank and Sullivan graph you may see on the page if that proves too complicated – after all, he’s not just a physics professor but an astro one at that.
After reading both articles, an interesting thought struck me. (All that science fiction and fantasy from my teenage years confounded together.) The Guardian mentioned that the Anthropocene epoch is going to be “short” and the effects “irreversible”, while Adam’s article talked about how the earth is now characterised by our very own human influences, which, ironically, is going to make earth less habitable for us.
Does that mean that very soon, when we assess planet earth’s suitability for human colonisation, it will no longer be deemed possible for human life? Wait – what if that’s already happened… in a parallel universe? How about… that’s why there’re earth-like planets that are uninhabitable?
I took a brief reads online about planets that are very similar to earth but uninhabitable due to radiation. Sounds pretty much like what earth might combust into. That venus taught us about the greenhouse effect and Mars used to be warm and wet, therefore potentially inhabitable… Come on, science and fantasy are not that distinct, are they?
Then, of course, I skimped through interesting ideas on space colonisation and theories put forth by the famous Stephen Hawking – very cool. He must, obviously, be a Star Wars fan.
Of course, astronomy and space colonisation is not my area of expertise. But it makes me wonder if there is a way to prolong the Anthropocene epoch. I mean – we’ve already done the irreversible by pushing past the Holocene epoch. (Holocene was the most recent epoch, characterised by its optimal conditions for human life.) It is so ironic that the Holocene epoch would end up doing harm unto itself and humans, having flourished on this earth, would poison the hand that feeds them.
I guess, if this is the ‘Human Age’, then humans are the ones who can make the difference.