Why the Anthropocene?

Context: We are living with the increasing urgency to make a systemic shift in our globalised society so that we live/create within the ecosystem boundaries of our host – the Earth. We have been talking about this for over 20 years and the urgency is not dissolving. It is increasing and February’s heat wave in Eastern Australia is truly frightening.

Conceptualised at the turn of the 21st century, the Anthropocene epoch denotes the movement from the Holocene geological epoch which lasted 11,700 years, to a new phase in the Earth’s history where in the 20th century humans became the driving force in the planetary system. This thinking emerges from the new scientific discipline of Earth System Science.

Our impact is most obvious in the Earth’s climate system with the ‘greenhouse effect’ and consequent global warming. Also in the reduction of the planet’s bio-diversity through pollution, habitat destruction and over consumption resulting in increasing rates of extinction.


Exploration: I visualise the Anthropocene as a line we have crossed while striving for our wealth, health and happiness. We are now in new territory. Being the driving force on our planet’s health makes the daily choices I make suddenly much more impactful and within a very much bigger context than my personal bank balance.

The Anthropocene indicates its up to us! We are the ones who must make the qualitative shift required in the relationship between the human species and the Earth. Yet resistance, denial, anger, bargaining and depression prevails in our public discourse overriding acceptance and action. Many have asked/investigated/bemoaned; Why is it so hard for an intelligent, conscious species like humans to collectively respond to this challenge?

Maybe the paradox of the ordinary/revolutionary qualities pervading this reality is overwhelming. Because the paradigm shift required to reduce the human carbon footprint is profound and transformational. This process  of realisation is not helped by the abstract and technical language used in policy papers such as ‘adaptation’ and ‘mitigation’ – both of which feel removed from daily reality. Somehow these words don’t seem to include you and me.

Transformation by contrast invites our whole being, it is about changing our DNA, our habits, expectations, world views and finally (maybe even effortlessly), our economies. In this new phase in human history, we are challenged to move our society from being consumers and (possibly) sustainers, to actively and consciously becoming regenerators. This is an energetic and constructive place to act from. I believe this is as much about ‘how’ we engage with the world and each other, as ‘what’ we do.

Governance and the process of governing is an influential domain where decisions about resource (human and other) are made at all levels of society. My research is exploring what governance suited to the Anthropocene might look and feel like in innovative non-government organisations who have altered their processes and structures, providing us with new models, languages, pathways and bridges to collective action and creativity in our responses to the Anthropocene.

Post links:

Anthropocene https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/29/declare-anthropocene-epoch-experts-urge-geological-congress-human-impact-earth

6th Great Extinction http://time.com/3035872/sixth-great-extinction/

Photo: Great Pacific Garbage Patch       KAL’s cartoon, The Economist

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