What is the Anthropocene and why is it relevant for international law

An article written by Professors Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams from the Department of Geology with Professor Davor Vidas of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway is for the third month in a row ranked in the top 50 of the most-read articles in the Oxford University Press Yearbook of Environmental Law.

The article, titled ‘What Is the Anthropocene—and Why Is It Relevant for International Law?’, covers how our Earth is undergoing a shift from the conditions of the most recent officially accepted geological time interval, the Holocene, to a new planetary state due to the impact of human population on the global environment.

The piece suggests that unlike the Holocene, which has been characterised, especially in its later stages, by the longest overall stability in environmental conditions on the Earth since the appearance of Homo sapiens, the Anthropocene is seen as being characterised by change, uncertainty, and, probably, considerable instability in the behaviour of the Earth system.

The article explores what the Anthropocene is, how it can be defined, the context in which it exists and how it is relevant for international law.

Previous research at the University into the Anthropocene has included how human impact has created a ‘plastic planet’, how humanity’s footprint has transformed the underworld beneath our feet and the significance of July 16, 1945 in sparking the nuclear age.