Mark Williams (with Jan Zalasiewicz): 'The Human Impact from a Geological ‘Anthropocene’ Perspective'

Thursday 26 February

10:40 - 11:10

Paradiso, Main Hall

Jakarta - front cover of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Volume on the Anthropocene

The history of human evolution extends back for more than two million years, and in all that time humans and their ancestors have been developing technologies that influence the landscape around them. At first, simple stone tools aided in finding and preparing food. Later, as innovation accelerated, agriculture provided a surplus of energy that enabled the development of complex urban societies. Human influence has been growing since the Industrial Revolution in the early eighteenth century. Humans have dramatically modified the biosphere, leaving traces of an invasive and domesticated species that is almost globally dispersed. And, humans have caused widespread environmental degradation that threatens the existence of many species. Humans have significantly modified the landscape, for example, by building megacities that will preserve a fossil record of their materials from above and below ground, including the complex subterranean metro systems. Humans have fundamentally modified the routes of rivers and water supplies, and are changing the composition of the atmosphere and the chemistry of the oceans. Is the influence of humans significant from a geological perspective, and does human influence rank in significance alongside some of the great geological changes that beset the Earth in the distant past?


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