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A-Z of the Future > Anthropocene

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Over the last 200 years the impact of human activity on planet Earth has become so significant that this period could be defined as the human era. This is what ‘Anthropocene’ captures: ‘anthropos’ means human and ‘cene’ refers to a geological age.


Examples of the extent of human activity include huge population growth (rising from 1 billion in 1800 to an estimated 10 billion by 2050); environmental degradation, including global warming; and a pace of extinction of animals so rapid as to constitute the 6th great extinction event on planet Earth.


It is not, however, all of humanity that is causing these effects, nor have humans always been so rapaciously destructive on such a large scale. Our modern social systems and technologies have enabled this devastating toll. Other suggested names for the modern age include ‘Capitalocene’ (identifying capitalism as the problem), and ‘Necrocene’ (which argues that have ‘become death’, marked in particular by the development of nuclear weapons).


Whether it is the systems we have created or our fundamental nature that is ultimately at fault, it's clear we have not been able to create the comparative abundance and luxury that many of us now enjoy without creating catastrophic effects.


Human impacts are likely to increase as our technological powers and resource demands rise in the future.


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