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The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene (A Pelican Book) Penguin Presents The Audiobook Edition Of The Human Planet, A Pelican Book, By Simon L Lewis And Mark A Maslin, Read By Roy McMillan Meteorites, Methane, Mega Volcanoes And Now Human Beings The Old Forces Of Nature That Transformed Earth Many Millions Of Years Ago Are Joined By Another Us Our Actions Have Driven Earth Into A New Geological Epoch, The Anthropocene For The First Time In Our Home Planet S Billion Year History A Single Species Is Dictating Earth S Future To Some The Anthropocene Symbolises A Future Of Superlative Control Of Our Environment To Others It Is The Height Of Hubris, The Illusion Of Our Mastery Over Nature Whatever Your View, Just Below The Surface Of This Odd Sounding Scientific Word, The Anthropocene, Is A Heady Mix Of Science, Philosophy, Religion And Politics Linked To Our Deepest Fears And Utopian Visions Tracing Our Environmental Impact Through Time To Reveal When Humans Began To Dominate Earth, Simon Lewis And Mark Maslin Show What The New Epoch Means For The Future Of Humanity, The Planet And Life Itself The things which stood out for me The Columbian exchange chapter is jaw dropping It s an amazing collation of ideas and I ve never heard of them before Your argument for why the proposed start date of the Anthropocene matters the fact that it s about the narrative we tell ourselves, and the way that different dates imply different narratives, is great I ve been unpacking that a lot with friends and family over the christmas break we ve been debating how we use science to tell ourselves different stories I loved the discussion of the Anthropocene Working Group internals A great unpacking of the culture of science, and how it takes place within a social and political context The final chapter is brilliant, and I ve highlighted a lot of it these are ideas that I think really enrich our perception of the crisis The example of the Mayan civilisation de complexifying without that necessarily being a negative for the farmers in the system is a really great tonic to our current narratives of doom and gloom. This is an excellent book detailing the impacts of human activity on the Earth and its systems from the origins of humanity to the Great Acceleration of the post war era It is written with passion and a high degree of clarity It is robust and evidence rich in its ascertions and highly accessible Maybe a little too much on definitions for the non specialists but I will be definitely be adding it to my students A level book list Also check out the other books in this excellent Pelican series. This is a book which raises very mixed thoughts The authors assert that we are now living in the Anthropocene epoch, a new stage of geological time defined by the global impacts we humans are having on the environment, and the lasting traces these changes will leave in the geological record In a handful of chapters, they outline these traces, some of which are mind boggling A future geologist investigating the fossil record would observe, for example, a sudden dramatic mixing of plant and animal species across the various continents, after millions of years of isolated speciation, as a result of trade starting around the time of the discovery and conquest of the Americas Similarly, there is a contemporaneous small drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, resulting from the inadvertent introduction of European diseases into the Americas, leading to a collapse of the native populations, with consequent regrowth of forests on what used to be farmland sucking up carbon from the atmosphere There is the layer of novel radioactive isotopes starting in 1945 with the first atomic bomb test, some of which will be detectable for millions of years from now And, of course, there is the spiking of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, potentially leading to dramatic changes in sea levels, and helping along a possible sixth mass extinction.That we humans now have the power to leave a permanent signal in the very rocks itself is a mind blowing idea However, the authors then part the curtain to give us a glimpse of how the geological sausage is made The describe the fierce battles among geologists as to whether these changes are, in fact, sufficient for a new geological epoch to said to have started This is less interesting and less edifying, bringing to mind Sayre s Law about academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so low The authors try to make their case on scientific grounds, identifying the not always consistent criteria by which the geological record has been divided up thus far, and arguing that, indeed, the changes in the past few thousand years will leave a mark which satisfies these criteria At heart, this involves imagining whether a future geologist, perhaps a million years from now, would be able to detect changes in a manner so that, if they followed our ways of classifying geological time, these changes would lead them to declare a new geological epoch to have started, say, around 1600 AD.This is a bizarre exercise It is as if Radiohead were to release a new album today, and in the reviews next week music critics would be fighting over whether the album has started off a whole new genre of music with the answer partly depending on the critics assessment over whether other bands are expected, over the next decade, to pick up the stylistic innovations Radiohead have come up with last week It is completely missing the point about music The argument over whether the Anthropocene has begun or not and when exactly, anyway is, similarly, missing the point about the impact we are having on the environment in which we must live.So why is this being fought over Because, unlike the evolution of popular music, the evolution of our global environment is one of the biggest political issues we are facing in the next century Some geologists including the authors are keen to have a say in that debate, and the way they can have a say is by declaring a new geological time period Geology looks into the deep past, at the prehistory of the Earth over millions or even billions of years We are now doing things to our planet in the blink of an eye, in terms of geological time The way geologists have conceptualised the world is not very well suited to thinking about such rapid changes But one has to work with the tools one has.The debate over the Anthropocene is, ultimately, a political decision an attempt to influence current political debates and about putting a veneer of scientific respectability on this attempt Sadly, even this veneer cracks when the authors turn to their analysis of the economics of global change To be brief, they paint an extremely broad brush synthesis of the evolution of human societies, from hunter gatherer societies, via farming, mercantile capitalism and the like, to the current stage which they call consumer capitalism The reader wonders, when this last stage and its associated acceleration of environmental problems is discussed, how the authors square their analysis with the fact that communist countries had, if anything, even greater harmful impacts on the environment than their counterparts in the West This is clarified in an endnote, in which the authors argue without a hint of irony or self awareness that they actually classify communism as part of consumer capitalism The veil has fallen off surely capitalism , as used by Lewis and Maslin, has lost any meaning at all The authors are so desperate to stick to a Marxist economic analysis, in which societal defects can be pinned on something called capitalism , that they have to contort the meaning of the term beyond recognition for the conceptual framework to agree with empirical reality.Their broad brush analysis of the evolution of human societies is useful and interesting, but the extrapolation of this analysis into the future is not At the scale the authors discuss, human societies are experiencing such fundamental changes that extrapolation will have very, very little predictive value To top it all off, they even devote several pages to discussing how Universal Basic Income might help us along in the transition to a new, enlightened, less rapacious stage of societal organisation Needless to say, there are no references to actual economics literature It s hard not to be baffled by this how did we get from the Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago to half baked arguments for universal basic income Experts on discussions of global environmental change should know the dangers of moving outside one s own field of expertise There have been dozens of ideologically driven attempts, by people who know zilch about climate science, to prove how climate change is not happening These analyses are repeatedly demolished by actual experts, who roll their eyes in frustration at having to time and again point out trivial mistakes made by amateurs Yet, when it comes to economics, there is often a tendency by natural scientists to blithely sally forth with similar audacity, with casual unsubstantiated criticism of mainstream economics and a complete ignorance of basic facts, concepts and arguments Sadly, the last part of Lewis and Maslin s book is a good example of how this can go wrong It is a real shame, as half of the book the part in which the authors actually talk about the many ways in which we humans have left long lasting, global changes on our environment is exciting and a lot of fun.


About the Author: Simon Lewis

Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene (A Pelican Book) book, this is one of the most wanted Simon Lewis author readers around the world.


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