As the Interdisciplinary Anthropocene Research Group we are researching global challenges and exploring the complex ways in which socio-economic ecosystems impact the Earth System.
- How is the natural world changing as a result of human intervention?
- How do constant economic growth, changing market forces, ever-expanding construction and the algorithm-driven trade of today influence the fundamental underpinning of our planet, and in-turn influence the nature of geological strata forming on Earth?
- Have we reached a point of no-return in terms of emissions of CO2 and other pollutants – or can we engineer a ‘soft landing’ for the dramatic current trajectory of the Earth’s Systems?
- Which political infrastructures and processes can be put in place to decrease our collective impact on the environment?
- How can we change our business models for alternative modes of production and consumption?
- How are man-made materials such as plastics and concrete impacting the environment?
These are some questions that we ask at Leicester’s Interdisciplinary Anthropocene Research Group.
The Anthropocene, a term created by Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen, describes the epoch of time during which human actions have had a drastic effect on the Earth and its ecosystem, on climate and on the very evolution of the geological strata. We are no longer living in the Holocene - that time of relative stability following the last glaciation during which human civilisation was able to develop. As the noted philosopher Bruno Latour has said, in the Anthropocene the Earth is becoming sensitive to our actions and we humans are becoming, to some extent, geology.
While researchers in the international Anthropocene Working Group are still working to characterise and define the Anthropocene, they have demonstrated clear and fundamental human-driven changes to the Earth System, including the perturbation of the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, to the landscape, and to the biosphere, with long-term geological consequences.
Exploring the Anthropocene phenomenon is a matter not just for science. Participation by the social sciences and humanities is critical not only to analyse the causes of changes - that strongly reflect evolving socioeconomic patterns - but also to take meaningful actions to mitigate harmful trends. As the Anthropocene state of the planet intensifies, sparking wider political and economic issues, public debate is ever more crucial.