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Welcome to the Anthropocene (Jack Jeffery Sustainability Lecture)

James Syvitski, Professor of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder

Date/Time: 12th July 2016

The Anthropocene was formally proposed in 2000 as Earth’s newest epoch, a period during which humanity’s impact on the planet has rivalled that of the great geological forces.

Humans are changing the Earth’s biophysical system — atmospheric and ocean climatology and chemistry, the extent of snow cover, permafrost and sea-ice, glacier, ice-sheet and ocean volume, and indeed the hydrological cycle. But, in the past few years, this concept has escaped its geological confines to emerge as a new paradigm that embodies an altered human-environment relationship.

Natural and social scientists, humanists, artists, educators and journalists have examined this concept from a variety of perspectives. This churning has thrown up many questions such as:

  • When did the Anthropocene begin?
  • What are the implications of this paradigm for science and policy?
  • Is it fair to hold “humanity” culpable for the actions of a few?
  • Can there be a “good” Anthropocene?

Speaker biography

James Syvitski is a fellow of The Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado Boulder and past chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. Launched in 1987, the programme provided essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth’s systems on a worldwide scale to help guide society onto a sustainable pathway during rapid global change.

Widely regarded as a world leader in Earth-system science, he specialises in research on rivers, deltas, polar environments, sediment transport and continental margins. With over half of the population of the planet living on the coasts, James Syvitski’s areas of expertise are a priority for international research programmes.

James Syvitski
James Syvitski