Is human pressure on Earth driving the Anthropocene over the edge?
Please join WWF discuss the impact human have had on the earth, and what that means for the future relationship we have with each other and with our planet.
Who: Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Professor of Social Ecology and Coordinator of Sustainability Research, Alpen Adria University and Senior Lecturer at the University of Vienna in Environmental Sociology
When: April 16, 2015 at 4:00 PM
Where: 1250 24th St NW, 2nd floor conference center. Free and open to the public. Reception to follow.
Dr. Fischer-Kowalski takes a long term view of humanity to understand the thresholds at which human impact on the planet has caused us to arrive here – in the Anthropocene. Humanity’s population and level of affluence has increased over time, causing greater and greater resource use. She examines this longer time-series information with an eye toward correlation with historical, social transitions in an effort to understand whether there are major social transformations in our near future.
Abstract: The discussion on the Anthropocene is in search for a valid and quantifiable description of how and when humans acquire the ability to dominate major features of the Earth system. While common approaches seek to quantify the human impact upon the carbon cycle by identifying the area of land cleared by humans, we base our estimate on the social metabolism of the human population. As a starting point, we use Ehrlich‘s classical IPAT formula, and give it a specific interpretation: human impact on Earth equals population size times affluence (interpreted as energy available per person) times technology – differentiated by mode of subsistence. For the past millennia, we estimate the respective population sizes and affluence (energy), and finally technology concerning its impact on the carbon cycle. We see a major historical dividing line around AD 1500: up to then, human population growth and metabolic rates carry about equal weight in increasing human pressure. In the centuries since, fossil fuels allow to raise social energy use to unprecedented levels and introduce a take off in population and technology; technology, because it is based upon a shift from biomass to fossil fuels and other modern energy carriers, does not moderate this impact, but even enhances it. Is there a major transformation ahead?