Welcome to the Anthropocene

 

Every living thing affects its surroundings. But humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature.

There are now so many of us, using so many resources, that we’re disrupting the grand cycles of biology, chemistry and geology by which elements like carbon and nitrogen circulate between land, sea and atmosphere. We’re changing the way water moves around the globe as never before. Almost all the planet’s ecosystems bear the marks of our presence.

Our species’ whole recorded history has taken place in the geological period called the Holocene – the brief interval stretching back 10,000 years. But our collective actions have brought us into uncharted territory. A growing number of scientists think we’ve entered a new geological epoch that needs a new name – the Anthropocene.

Probably the best-known aspect of our newfound influence is what we’re doing to the climate. Atmospheric carbon dioxide may be at its highest level in 15 million years. But this is just one part of the story; we’re changing the planet in countless ways. Nutrients from fertilizer wash off fields and down rivers, creating stretches of sea where nothing grows except vast algal blooms; deforestation means vast quantities of soil are being eroded and swept away. Rich grasslands are turning to desert; ancient ice formations are melting away; species everywhere are vanishing.

These developments are all connected, and there’s a risk of an irreversible cascade of changes leading us into a future that’s profoundly different from anything we’ve faced before. Little by little, we’re creating a hotter, stormier and less diverse planet.

The Anthropocene is a decisive break from what came before. Scientists are still debating exactly when it began – was it when our distant forebears started to farm the land? With the industrial revolution? With the dawn of the atomic era, even?

Whenever the new epoch started, we’re living in it now. And if our descendants look back in thousands of years’ time, they’ll see the evidence of our actions written everywhere in the rocks.

From Anthropocene.info

 

Figure 1: Human Appropriated Net Primary Production (HANPP) as a % of total Net Primary Production (NPP) (Source: EEA)

 

Mike Sandiford, director of the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne puts human activity in perspective. While there is widespread concern about playing god with engineering solutions on a global scale, professor Sandiford reminds us that we are already geo-engineering the planet.

Geologists estimate that on average about 10 billion tonnes of sediment have been moved from mountain to sea each year over geological time by rivers and glaciers. In contrast, since the onset of agriculture, the river sediment flux has increased about threefold, to about 28 billion tonnes each year.

Other human activities have these scale effects:

  1. We mine about seven billion tonnes of coal each year
  2. We mine 2.3 billion tonnes of iron ore each year
  3. We shift several times as much in overburden to access these resources.
  4. We produce large amounts of construction aggregate, 2.5 billion tonnes in the USA alone
  5. We consume limestone for the three billion tonnes of cement made each year and other excavations for our infrastructure

Given these statistics, it is easy to see that human civilization is clearly the dominant geological agent shaping the Earth’s surface today.

Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute and Professor of Geology Mike Sandiford shares some sobering facts about how much humanity impacts the planet

World renowned conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy gives an overview of the impacts on biosphere and proposes a radical solution

The Post Carbon Institute produced this short video to show the true cost of our Energy system

Guardian writer George Monbiot talks about the need to take drastic action (in 2011!): 90% reduction of fossil fuel by 2030 to avoid runaway climate change

Human beings are already geoengineering the planet, moving more material and energy than natural processes. We are the major shapers of our planet. What are those measures of our geological impact, and how do they compare to the natural energy and material fluxes that shape our planet?

Natural Processes

Geological

  • On average about 10 billion tonnes of sediment have been moved from mountain to sea each year over geological time by rivers and glaciers
  • Volcanoes vent a lot of gas and particulate matter from the interior of the Earth. Over geological time, that material is returned to the Earth through natural mineralization.
  • Volcano eruptions,  earthquake and tsunami are natural processes which release  immense energy to shape our planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energy

  • The rate heat is released from the earth – a measure of its natural “metabolic rate” – is well understood. It’s about 44 trillion watts, and reflects the average rate of energy transferred in moving all the continents, making all the mountains, the earthquakes and the volcanoes on our planet in a process we call plate tectonics
  • Climate scientists talk about the climate sensitivity in terms of a “radiative forcing” – an obscure term that accounts for the rate of heat energy gain or loss due to a change in a climate parameter

Human Processes

Geological

  • Since the onset of agriculture, the river sediment flux has increased about threefold, to about 28 billion tonnes each year
    • We mine about seven billion tonnes of coal and 2.3 billion tonnes of iron ore each year
    • We shift several times as much in overburden to access these resources
    • Construction aggregate – 2.5 billion tonnes in the USA alone
    • Limestone – 3  billion tonnes of cement made each year and other excavations for our infrastructure
  • Best estimates place human industrial emissions of sulfur dioxide and CO₂ at five and 100 times natural volcanic emissions, respectively
  • Since the industrial revolution the added CO₂ now dissolved in the oceans has increased acidity by 25% – and it is changing the geological processes operating at the sea floor
  • We can see traces of the lead we have mined in modern sediments all around the globe – a geochemical fingerprint of Homo sapiens to be preserved for time immemorial, like the iridium anomaly that marked the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago
  • We even make earthquakes. Induced quakes are a common occurrence when we first fill large dams, with the largest record being a magnitude six quake in India

Energy

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates our human “energy system” operates at a rate of some 16 trillion watts. Therefore, we are already operating at one-third the rate of plate tectonics, and with our energy use doubling every 34 years we are on course to surpass plate tectonics by about 2060
  • The radiative forcing of a doubling of CO₂ is about 1300 trillion watts – or 28 times the energy released by plate tectonics
  • We are well on the way to doubling CO₂. In the past hundred years we have added almost 40%, and warming that can only plausibly be attributed to a greenhouse effect is not only heating the atmosphere, but is also pumping heat into the oceans and the crust at a phenomenal rate
  • The temperature in boreholes across Australia show as much heat is now going into the upper 30-50 metres of the Earth’s crust as is trying to get out – a result entirely consistent with the surface temperature rises measured by climate scientists
  • Recent measurements suggest the oceans have been heating at 300 trillion watts over the last few decades
  • The scale of our humankind’s energy use is truly mind-boggling. The sheer size of these numbers makes it difficult for most people to grasp and comprehend their significance; few of us have any useful reference frame for comparison hence a new measure of energy use has been proposed
  • The “Hiro” is the equivalent to the energy released by detonating one Hiroshima “Little Boy” bomb every second. One Hiro equals 60 trillion watts
  • In these terms, our human energy system operates at a rate of 0.25 Hiros, or one Hiroshima bomb every four seconds. That is the equivalent of more than eight million Hiroshima bombs going off each year
  • We are on a trajectory towards the one Hiro mark by 2100, equivalent to the energy release of one bomb each year for every five-square kilometre patch of land on the planet
  • The ocean heating is at 5 Hiros over the last few decades – the energy equivalent of detonating more than a 150 million Hiroshima bombs in our oceans each year
  • The radiative forcing of the CO2 we have already put in the atmosphere in the last century is a staggering 13 Hiros. The equivalent in energy terms to almost half a billion Hiroshima bombs each year.
  • The world’s human population has grown so much and so fast – trebling in one century and still rising by more than 70 million a year – that it’s perhaps not surprising that the vast scale of our geological impact is yet to sink in

Generation Anthropocene

 
  

Generation Anthropocene is a project launched by a group of  Stanford University teachers, graduate and undergraduate students on Earth Day 2012. The team employs investigative storytelling and seek out cross-generational stories about the Anthropocene. Compelling interviews with thought-leaders are presented in podcast format.

Some of the podcasts are:

Alley, Richard (climate change researcher)
Climate researcher and host of PBS’s Earth: The Operators’ Manual Richard Alley discusses abrupt climate variations in Earth’s history and what he defines as climate tipping points – leading to a discussion on whether or not Earth’s climate systems has dials, or switches.  He also addresses the socio-economic costs of climate change and why he’s optimistic about our energy future, with links to salted cod in the 1700s.  Alley also reflects on the role of scientists as advocates with some interesting implications for Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.

Archie, Patrick (agricultural ecologist)
Patrick Archie reflects on the social justice of food, the evolution of his profession, and his vision for community development as it relates to food systems.

Arrigo, Kevin (polar oceanographer)
Kevin Arrigo discusses the often regarded-as-alien environment of the polar regions, the future of environmental awareness of the oceans, and a breaking discovery that may change the way scientists view the Arctic.

Becker, Austin (port and sea level rise researcher)
Austin Becker, a ship’s captain turned researcher, looks to the future for how ports will respond to sea level rise. He explains the importance of ports for world trade, the time horizons for port planning, and the plans to brace for rising seas (or lack thereof).

Benson, Sally (director GCEP)
Sally Benson talks about the goals and recent accomplishments of Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), the need to partner with industry, the hopeful signs of alternative energy development, and how her upbringing informed her sense of justice and optimism.

Bird, Doug (anthropologist)
Doug Bird discusses his work with the native Martu peoples of Australia, their perceptions of environment, the history of landscape modification in the remote and harsh Western dessert, and how the spread of homo sapiens relates to the Anthropocene.

Bowman, Tom (founder of Bowman Design Group)
Mountaineer and social entrepreneur Tom Bowman starts us off with a story of survival. With some help from producers Miles Traer and Leslie Chang, Tom explains how survival literature can provide lessons for confronting some of the changes we’re experiencing in the Anthropocene.

Brown, Zach (marine biologist)
After growing up in a remote corner of Alaska, marine biologist Zach Brown wants to start a school to teach future scientists about environmental sciences and sustainability.  Zach tells producers Mike and Leslie about his vision for the Inian Islands Institute (nicknamed “The Hobbit Hole”) and how experiential education is perhaps the best way to clearly see the lost connections between human systems and the natural world.  Zach also remembers what it’s like growing up with only a single television channel, and how often the signal would drop out… with some interesting results.

Caldeira, Ken (climate scientist)
Climate scientist Ken Caldeira begins with a discussion of ocean acidification, a term he helped coin.  He follows with the story of how his name became attached to geoengineering, from his own skeptical beginnings to publishing a paper that basically said, “well, it works in the models but don’t try this at home.”  Along the way, Caldeira also shares some funny experiences addressing climate skeptics, including how geoengineering has even helped persuade a few.

Christensen, Jon (environmental historian)
Jon Christensen discusses the mythos of the American frontier and some of his unique approaches to history.  Christensen also gazes to the future and makes an interesting case for a placement of the Anthropocene boundary.

Dirzo, Rodolfo (tropical evolutionary biologist)
Rodolfo Dirzo discusses the importance of biological diversity, his connection to the Anthropocene, and his work in Central and South America in one of our most spirited conversations.

Dunn, Debra (entrepreneur)
Debra Dunn discusses the (hopefully) changing role of the modern entrepreneur to one committed to positive social & environmental impacts in addition to profits.  She also addresses the increasing emphasis on the individual as opposed to the community and the sorts of problems this emphasis brings.  And finally, while reflecting on what she views as the greatest social injustices in the Anthropocene, Debra Dunn takes us to Cuba and the “grand egalitarian experiment” with some surprising revelations on culture, the arts and even the healthcare system.

Durham, Bill (human ecologist)
Bill Durham discusses his career trajectory including his work in the Galapagos Islands, issues surrounding the new field of eco-tourism, and how a mishap with a lawn mower started his life’s work.

Ehrlich, Paul R. (biologist)
Paul Ehrlich discusses his recent work with the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB), returns to his seminal work “The Population Bomb” to discuss cultural v. technological evolution, and the nature of environmental rhetoric.

Ellis, Mike (head of climate change science at the British Geological Survey)
It’s our 50th episode!  To celebrate we sit down with four members of the Anthropocene Working Group: the scientists and experts who are deciding whether or not we formally adopt the Anthropocene into the geologic time table.  We discuss what makes the Anthropocene boundary different than all of the other boundaries in geologic history, how they deal with the increased public attention to this particular boundary, and some cultural ripple effects of the Anthropocene dealing with the Law of the Sea.

Feldman, Marcus (evolutionary biologist)
Evolutionary biologist Marcus Feldman uses DNA to understand early human migration out of Africa. In this interview, we learn the utility of language, how and why early humans spread to all continents, and the idea that people still don’t “have it in their heads” just how similar we all are.

Freedman, Mike (filmmaker)
Filmmaker Mike Freedman explains the creative process behind his debut documentary, Critical Mass. His film explores how the growing population alters the social and psychological environment, and the challenges of equality in a world of 7 billion people.

Gardner, Christopher (nutritionist)
Christopher Gardner discusses the relations of food and society, the modern food movement, and a variety of compelling reasons for rethinking the way we eat in one of our more uplifting conversations.

Gerber, Leah (conservation biologist)
Leah Gerber discusses her work with marine ecosystem conservation, the remarkable backlash to a proposal she and her colleagues made, and the difficulties working between two entrenched ideologies.

Grinspoon, David (astrobiologist)
Astrobiologist David Grinspoon takes the anthropocene off-planet to our nearest cosmic neighbor Venus and discusses what we learn about climate change here on Earth from Venus’ catastrophic green-house effect.  He also takes some time to address George Carlin’s environmental philosophy and talk about his childhood friend and mentor, Carl Sagan.

Guzman, Andrew (international lawyer)
Expert on international law Andrew Guzman takes a step back from analyzing climate change in terms of degrees and meters of sea level rise and breaks down all the ways climate change will affect humanity.  Dr. Guzman offers this perspective through his new book, Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change.  From environmental refugees to changing disease vectors to social conflict, Guzman illustrates how nearly all of our human systems interact with climate and therefore will feel the effects of even +2C.

Haff, Peter (neoenvironment specialist)
In this interview, Dr. Peter Haff of Duke sits down with Mike (and Mike sits down with Leslie) to explain the Technosphere. We learn that technology is emerging as a geologic force, what that means for the future of the planet, and how geologic perspectives are being reshaped in the Anthropocene.

Handley, George (literary ecocritic)
Literary ecocritic George Handley discusses how literature ranging from sacred texts like the Bible to Charles Dickens to Twilight shape our perceptions of environmental morality.  He also discusses the influences of the Mormon faith on his environmental ethics, and why he feels “a Christian obligation to listen very carefully to science.”

Hayhoe, Katharine (climate scientist)
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe discusses her Christianity in the context of her academic career… and her marriage to a one time climate skeptic.  She also reflects on whether or not the Anthropocene might have begun with Adam & Eve’s exodus from the Garden of Eden.

Hearle, Kevin (poet)
Kevin Hearle performs two poems from his collection Each Thing We Know Is Changed Because We Know It and Other Poems. His poems reflect on the rapid cultural and environmental changes that occurred in Southern California in the 20th century as the state was flooded with newcomers from the East coast and the Midwest. Kevin also discusses the life of a poet, which for him has involved quite a few peanut butter sandwiches.

Heise, Ursula (literary critic)
Ursula Heise discusses the construction of environmental & earth science narratives, the origins and perhaps misuse of apocalyptic environmental stories, and some of the ways she hopes environmental discourse proceeds in the Anthropocene – a term she finds deeply intriguing.

Herkenhoff, Ken (Mars Curiosity scientist)
In 1968, the Saturn V rocket pushed the frontier 250,000 miles (400,000 km) to the moon. Now, in 2012, Curiosity has moved the frontier 1,000 times farther.  Planetary geologist and member of the Mars Curiosity science team Ken Herkenhoff recounts the dicey “seven minutes of terror,” discusses the incredible technology on the rover, and what we’ve learned in the short time Curiosity has been on the Martian surface.  He also addresses the cultural significance of space exploration and why NASA and the USGS refer to Curiosity as “she.”

Hoffman, Andy (sustainable enterprise)
Andy Hoffman talks about the necessity of “dark greens” and “light greens,” the waning meaning of environmental rhetoric, and the difficulties of forming a social consensus around climate change.

Jones, James Holland (biological anthropologist)
James Holland Jones explains how diseases typically spread from animal to human populations and how that might change as our planet continues to warm.  He also discusses how we might prevent future epidemics with limited vaccines by looking to community structure and identifying the key bridge populations.  Without getting too apocalyptic… ok fine, getting a little apocalyptic… Jones also looks to diseases of the past to pick the one that is most likely to be a serious problem in the future, hemorrhagic fever hopefully not included.  Hypochondriacs beware, it’s all infectious disease on this episode of Generation Anthropocene!

Jones, Reece (geographer)
Geographer Reece Jones discusses his recent book “Border Walls,” examining the history of how and why societies have chosen to literally wall themselves apart.  He gives a brief history of political maps, how international lines reshape landscapes, and how the trend towards increased border wall construction contrasts with the view of a “borderless” world under globalization.  Jones also reveals which border wall is actually visible from space.

Kareiva, Peter (chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy)
The chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy Peter Kareiva challenges historical landscapes as the goal of conservation, discusses how to develop econometrics in the Anthropocene, and how he uses science to build an unbiased view of nature.  He also takes a brief moment to address his public image as something of a provocateur.

Lobell, David (food security)
Food security expert David Lobell takes us around the world to give us a taste of the global food production system.  He discusses the wide range of problems our changing climate will have on our food security and the prospects for creating a sustainable food system in the future.

Lowman, “Canopy” Meg (forest ecologist)
“Canopy” Meg Lowman talks about her trail-blazing journeys with a homemade harness into the treetops, the strange and unknown world of the rainforest canopy, and some of her recent work restoring forests in Ethiopia.

Masters, Gil (environmental engineer)
Gil Masters highlights the importance of buildings in shaping our energy demands and explores the potential of energy efficiency while offering fresh and practical solutions to the energy and climate crisis.

Matson, Pam (sustainable agriculture & dean of Stanford’s school of earth sciences)
Pam Matson discusses her agricultural research in the Yaqui Valley and how it relates to the Green Revolution.  She also reflects upon the politics of sustainable agriculture and how we might go about feeding the 9 billion people we expect in the coming decades.  As a final thought, she offers some advice to those who are coming of age in the Anthropocene, and why we shouldn’t waste our time trying to assign blame.

Meriwether, Graham (filmmaker)
Filmmaker Graham Meriwether sits down with Leslie to discuss his new documentary American Meat: A Leave It Better Story that investigates the current condition of the meat production industry in the States.  He explains the importance of focusing on the farmers and why he’s optimistic about the future of farming.  After the interview, Leslie had to call Graham back to discuss an unusual situation that developed during a screening of his film on the Stanford University campus.

Morgan, Granger (environmental engineer)
Drift into the stratosphere as environmental engineer Granger Morgan explains how to use aerosols to control climate change and why he calls this a bit of a Faustian bargain.  He also discusses what position the States would have to find itself in to actually do this as he builds to the terrifying realization that an individual (or a nation for that matter) with a few billion dollars could make the unilateral decision to go ahead and change the climate.

Orlowski, Jeff (filmmaker)
Director Jeff Orlowski takes us behind the scenes of his widely praised documentary Chasing Ice, which captured stunning time lapse images of retreating and melting glaciers.  He discusses the public reaction to his film, what it’s like working in harsh Arctic conditions, and his emotions witnessing firsthand glaciers the size of Manhattan fracturing and falling into the oceans.

Ortolano, Leonard (environmental engineer)
Leonard Ortolano reflects on his professional trajectory and how environmentalism has guided water resource planning, a brief history of US environmental assessment work, and explored the complexity of water as it relates to climate change.

Payne, Jon (paleobiologist/geologist)
Jon Payne discusses Earth’s previous mass extinctions including his work on the largest extinction in Earth’s history, how geologists define boundaries, our current understanding of deep time, and how geologists view the Anthropocene debate.

Pell, Richard (curator for the museum of postnatural history)
Curator for the Museum of PostNatural History in Pittsburgh, PA and assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon, Richard (Rich) Pell describes a new way for us to view how humans control the evolutionary path of other organisms – the growing field of PostNaturalism.  Pell walks us through his museum, explains how he arrived at the concept of postnaturalism, and shares some of the surprising reactions his visitors experience along the tour.

Price, Jenny (historian)
Historian, author, and urban park ranger Jenny Price makes her case for throwing out the well-tread “save the planet” mantra in favor of a new environmental approach stemming from social justice, a re-contextualization of nature, and even satire.  In particular, she explains the beauty she finds in recognizing the nature of the concrete Los Angeles river.  As she wraps up, Jenny discusses how her satirical approach to environmentalism has gotten her into trouble involving a hit man.

Root, Terry (biologist)
Terry Root talks about her approach to bio-diversity loss, earth science communication, and the far-reaching impacts of humankind in our most heart-felt interview to date.

Santer, Benjamin (climate scientist)
Climate scientist and MacArthur genius Ben Santer takes us back in time to 1995 to a key turning point in the history of climate change science. He reflects on the second IPCC report and the moment he realized the political stakes of global warming.  He also discusses the origin of the historic statement, “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

Schulze-Makuch, Dirk (astrobiologist)
If we’re looking for how life will respond to rapid environmental changes, we should probably look to bacteria adapted to live in extreme environments – what scientists call extremophiles.  Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch examines the Anthropocene with thought experiments of bacteria throughout the solar system, using scientific principles documented on Earth.  He discusses known extremophiles, asteroid impacts, and the importance of keeping an open mind when analyzing evolutionary trajectories on Earth.

Shellenberger, Michael (president of Breakthrough Institute)
Co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute Michael Shellenberger discusses the cultural relevance of the Anthropocene and why it’s a term that so many people have adopted.  He also addresses the complex topic of climate change, how he deals with climate uncertainty, and spends some time reflecting on whether or not climate change scares him.

Sockness, Brent (religious studies)
Brent Sockness discusses his work studying Judeo-Christianity, the religious overtones within the environmental movement, and the often overlooked role religion might play in the Anthropocene.

Thompson, Buzz (environmental and natural resources law and policy)
Dive into water security and policy with Buzz Thompson, leading expert in environmental and natural resources law.  From his grandfather’s farm to the US Supreme Court, Buzz has water issues covered.  And he even finds a little time for tennis with Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Vidas, Davor (law of the sea expert)
It’s our 50th episode!  To celebrate we sit down with four members of the Anthropocene Working Group: the scientists and experts who are deciding whether or not we formally adopt the Anthropocene into the geologic time table.  We discuss what makes the Anthropocene boundary different than all of the other boundaries in geologic history, how they deal with the increased public attention to this particular boundary, and some cultural ripple effects of the Anthropocene dealing with the Law of the Sea.

Vitousek, Peter (biologist)
With all of the attention paid to global climate change and the disruption of the carbon cycle, Peter Vitousek discusses the serious impacts humankind has had on the nitrogen cycle and how that relates to our food system.  He expands on the modern food production system as the primary driver of land use change, and explains just what he means when he says he wants to make the world a less homogeneous place with some interesting cultural implications.

Wara, Michael (climate scientist-turned-legal scholar)
Michael Wara discusses the nuts and bolts of greenhouse gas reduction programs and questions the value of the long-standing search for a one-size-fits-all, silver bullet solution.  He makes a case for small-scale experimentation when dealing with climate change and offers a few thoughts on why bad political ideas just never die.

White, Richard (environmental historian)
Richard White addresses the (mis)perceptions of the natural world, the ambiguities surrounding the Anthropocene boundary, and his approach to environmental history.

Williams, Mark (paleobiologist)
It’s our 50th episode!  To celebrate we sit down with four members of the Anthropocene Working Group: the scientists and experts who are deciding whether or not we formally adopt the Anthropocene into the geologic time table.  We discuss what makes the Anthropocene boundary different than all of the other boundaries in geologic history, how they deal with the increased public attention to this particular boundary, and some cultural ripple effects of the Anthropocene dealing with the Law of the Sea.

Zajonc, Krysia (co-founder Local Food Lab)
Co-founder of the Local Food Lab Krysia Zajonc makes her case for the crucial role of business within the sustainable food movement.  She also talks about the seeds of her business germinating in Costa Rica, some of the startups growing out of Local Food Lab, and takes time to address some of the frustrations people have with sustainable food.

Zalasiewicz, Jan (paleobiologist/stratigrapher)
It’s our 50th episode!  To celebrate we sit down with four members of the Anthropocene Working Group: the scientists and experts who are deciding whether or not we formally adopt the Anthropocene into the geologic time table.  We discuss what makes the Anthropocene boundary different than all of the other boundaries in geologic history, how they deal with the increased public attention to this particular boundary, and some cultural ripple effects of the Anthropocene dealing with the Law of the Sea.

Zambrano, Luis (conservation biologist for Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
Luis Zambrano discusses his work in wetland and ecosystem restoration in Mexico City and a rare salamander threatened by development (the Axolotl).  Seriously, if you like looking at cute things, google the Axolotl.  In fact, this rare salamander embodies a particularly powerful cultural symbol, leading to an interesting discussion of the Anthropocene as a cultural boundary.

Zoback, Mark (geophysicist & shale gas expert)
Mark Zoback sets the record straight on the science of hydro-fracking to free shale gas.  He addresses many misconceptions he feels the public weigh too heavily and offers his view on the crucial role natural gas plays as a bridge to renewable energy.  Mark also looks to some critiques of the nuclear energy sector (including Fukushima) and finds intriguing parallels to the shale gas revolution.

Is there such a thing as a “Good” Anthropocene?