The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship
- 13k Downloads
Over the past century, the total material wealth of humanity has been enhanced. However, in the twenty-first century, we face scarcity in critical resources, the degradation of ecosystem services, and the erosion of the planet’s capability to absorb our wastes. Equity issues remain stubbornly difficult to solve. This situation is novel in its speed, its global scale and its threat to the resilience of the Earth System. The advent of the Anthropence, the time interval in which human activities now rival global geophysical processes, suggests that we need to fundamentally alter our relationship with the planet we inhabit. Many approaches could be adopted, ranging from geo-engineering solutions that purposefully manipulate parts of the Earth System to becoming active stewards of our own life support system. The Anthropocene is a reminder that the Holocene, during which complex human societies have developed, has been a stable, accommodating environment and is the only state of the Earth System that we know for sure can support contemporary society. The need to achieve effective planetary stewardship is urgent. As we go further into the Anthropocene, we risk driving the Earth System onto a trajectory toward more hostile states from which we cannot easily return.
KeywordsEarth System Anthropocence Planetary stewardship Ecosystem services Resilience
The article is based on Steffen et al. (2011). The Anthropocene: from global change to planetary stewardship. Working Paper No. 2 prepared for the “3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability: Transforming the World in an Era of Global Change”, in Stockholm, 16–19 May 2011, Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact. We acknowledge support from Ebba och Sven Schwartz Stiftelse, Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation, Formas, and Mistra through a core grant to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, a cross-faculty research centre at Stockholm University.
- Arrhenius, S. 1896. On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground. The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science (fifth series) 41: 237–275.Google Scholar
- ASPO (Association of the Study of Peak Oil and Gas). 2010. www.peakoil.net.
- Bäckstrand, K., J. Khan, A. Kronsell, and E. Lövbrand (eds.). 2010. Environmental politics and deliberative democracy: Examining the promise of new modes of governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
- Biggs, D., R. Biggs, V. Dakos, R. Scholes, and M. Schoon. 2011. Are we entering an era of concatenated global crises? Ecology & Society 16(2): 27.Google Scholar
- Canning, D. 1998. A database of world stocks of infrastructure: 1950–1995. The World Bank Economic Review 12: 529–548.Google Scholar
- Canning, D. and M. Farahani. 2007. A database of world stocks of infrastructure: Update 1950–2005. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty/david-canning/files/A_Database_of_World_Stocks_of_Infrastructure.doc.
- Castells, M. 2010. The rise of the network society, 2nd ed. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Crutzen, P. J. 1995. My life with O30NOx and other YZOxs. In Les Prix nobel [The Nobel Prizes]. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 123–157.Google Scholar
- Diamond, J. 2005. Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
- Ellis, E.C., K. Klein Goldewijk, S. Siebert, D. Lightman, and N. Ramankutty. 2010. Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000. Global Ecology and Biogeography 19: 589–606.Google Scholar
- FAO. 2011. FAO food price index. http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/wfs-home/foodpricesindex/en/. Accessed 4 May 2011.
- Folke, C., S.R. Carpenter, B.H. Walker, M. Scheffer, F.S. Chapin III, and J. Rockström. 2010. Resilience thinking: Integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecology and Society 15: 20. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art20/.
- Folke, C., Å. Jansson, J. Rockström, P. Olsson, S. Carpenter, A-S. Crepín, G. Daily, J., Ebbesson et al. 2011. Reconnecting to the Biosphere. Ambio. doi: 10.1007/s13280-011-0184-y.
- Fraser, E.D.G., and A. Rimas. 2011. The psychology of food riots. Foreign Affairs Jan 30: 2011.Google Scholar
- Galloway, J.N., and E.B. Cowling. 2002. Reactive nitrogen and the world: Two hundred years of change. Ambio 31: 64–71.Google Scholar
- Gibson, D.G., J.I. Glass, C. Lartigue, V.N. Noskov, R.-Y. Chuang, M.A. Algire, G.A. Benders, M.G. Montague, et al. 2010. Creation of a bacterial cell controlled by a chemically synthesized gene. Science Express. doi: 10.1126/science.1190719.
- Global Footprint Network. 2011. Our human development initiative. http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/fighting_poverty_our_human_development_initiative/. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
- Hibbard, K.A., P.J. Crutzen, E.F. Lambin, D. Liverman, N.J. Mantua, J.R. McNeill, B. Messerli, and W. Steffen. 2006. Decadal interactions of humans and the environment. In Integrated History and Future of People on Earth. Dahlem workshop report 96, ed. R. Costanza, L. Graumlich, and W. Steffen, 341–375. Boston, MA: MIT PressGoogle Scholar
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. Averyt, M.M.B Tignor, H.L. Miller Jr, and Z. Chen. 996 pp. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- IRRI. 2010. Paper on global food crisis—Section 1. IRRI, Los Baños.Google Scholar
- ITU. 2010. ITU world telecommunication/ICT Indicators database http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx#; http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/index.html.
- Kolbert, E. 2011. Enter the Anthropocene: Age of man. National Geographic 219: 60–77.Google Scholar
- Liljenström, H., and U. Svedin (eds.). 2005. Micro meso, macro-addressing complex system couplings. New Jersey: World Scientific.Google Scholar
- Lovelock, J.E. 1979. Gaia: A new look at life on Earth. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Lovelock, J.E. 1988. The ages of Gaia: A biography of our living earth. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
- MA (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: Synthesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
- Mason, M. 2005. The new accountability: Environmental responsibility across borders. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
- McNeill, J.R. 2000. Something new under the sun: An environmental history of the twentieth century world. London: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
- Parry, M., O. Canziani, J. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson (eds.). 2007. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F.S. Chapin III, E.F. Lambin, T.M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, et al. 2009b. Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14: 32.Google Scholar
- Royal Society. 2005. Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, June 2005. London: The Royal Society.Google Scholar
- Scheffer, M. 2009. Critical transitions in nature and society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Sorrell, S., J. Speirs, R. Bentley, A. Brandt, and R. Miller. 2009. An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production. London: UK Energy Research Centre.Google Scholar
- Steffen, W., A. Sanderson, P.D. Tyson, J. Jäger, P. Matson, B. Moore III, F. Oldfield, K. Richardson, et al. 2004. Global change and the earth system: A planet under pressure. The IGBP global change series. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Steffen, W., Å. Persson, L. Deutsch, M. Williams, J. Zalasiewicz, C. Folke, J. Rockström, C. Crumley, P. Crutzen, L. Gordon, M. Molina, V. Ramanathan, K. Richardson, M. Scheffer, J. Schellnhuber, and U. Svedin. 2011. The Anthropocene: From global change to planetary stewardship, Working Paper No. 2. Prepared for the “3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability: Transforming the World in an Era of Global Change”, in Stockholm, 16–19 May 2011. Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.Google Scholar
- Tainter, J.A. 1998. The collapse of complex societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- UNDP. 2010. Human development report 2010—the real wealth of nations: pathways to human development, 20th Anniversary Edition. New York: UNDP.Google Scholar
- UNISDR (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat). 2009. Global assessment report on disaster risk reduction. Risk and poverty in a changing climate: Invest today for a safer tomorrow. http://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/publications/9413.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. USDA (2010). World Bank world development indicators. Washington: USDAGoogle Scholar
- WF, W. 2010. Living planet report 2010: Biodiversity, biocapacity and development. Gland: WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature).Google Scholar
- Wilkinson, R., and K. Pickett. 2009. The spirit level—why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
- World Bank. 2010. World Bank world development indicators. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?page=5.
- Young, O., and W. Steffen. 2009. The Earth System: Sustaining planetary life support systems. In Principles of ecosystem stewardship: Resilience-based resource natural resource management in a changing world, ed. F.S. Chapin III, G.P. Kofinas, and C. Folke, 295–315. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Zalasiewicz, J., P. Crutzen, and W. Steffen. 2012. Anthropocene. In A geological time scale 2010, ed. F.M. Gradstein (in press).Google Scholar
- Zalasiewicz, J., and M. Williams. 2009. A geological history of climate change. In Climate change: Observed impacts on planet Earth, ed. T.M. Letcher, 127–142. The Netherlands: Elsevier B.V.Google Scholar