Mark Williams: The Human Impact from a Geological ‘Anthropocene’ Perspective

SONIC ACTS Festival - The Geologic Imagination Mark Williams: The Human Impact from a Geological ‘Anthropocene’ Perspective 26 februrary 2015 - Paradiso, Amsterdam, the Netherlands --- 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? Acknowledgements Many thanks to the generosity of Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, University of Queensland, Ian Fairchild, University of Birmingham, Jean Vannier, University of Lyon, and Jan Zalasiewicz and David Siveter, University of Leicester for several of the images of fossils and reefs used in this talk. And to Jan Zalasiewicz, Peter Haff, Erle Ellis, Anthony Barnosky and Christian Schwägerl for co-developing these ideas. Many of the images used are available on the Internet, especially through wikipedia. For those slides where the http link is not given in the body of the presentation, the sources of the images are: Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory is taken from: James Hutton’s picture is from: Antonio Stoppani’s picture: Paul Crutzen’s picture: Charles Darwin’s picture: The Akashi Kaikyō bridge, Japan : The River Nile: Trinity bombsite: Chimpanzee: Armadillo: Brown tree snake: Cat’s face: London Metropolitan Line: London underground circa 1908-1909: Piccadilly Station: Global flight connections: Theia impact: Ediacaran seascape: Sentience/early man: Anastomosing rivers: Deforestation: Atacama desert: Anthromes: Meandering rivers:

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