21 March 2012 - 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
From Anthropocene to Sustainocene - Challenges and Opportunities
By Bryan Furnass
here to view the slideshow of the lecture
here to view the transcript of the lecture
Abstract: Geologists named the interglacial period which followed the
development of agriculture ten millennia ago the holocene era. At a
climate conference in 2000, Paul Crutzen, Nobel laureate in chemistry,
declared that human impacts on the biosphere since the industrial transition
250 years ago have been so extensive as to justify naming the present
era the anthropocene, which is accepted by many climate scientists.
The anthropocene has entailed harnessing energy from fossil fuels to
machines for manufacturing, heating, lighting, transport, agriculture
and communications. It has conferred many benefits on human health and
wellbeing, including liberation from unrelenting physical toil, increased
life expectancy and improved living conditions in developed countries,
alongside a sevenfold global increase in population.
In terms of personal metabolism, there is a wide disparity between
the one sixth of the human population suffering from under-nutrition,
and a similar proportion who experience over-nutrition, including an
epidemic of overweight and obesity, associated with Type 2 diabetes,
cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
In terms of planetary metabolism, human activities have led to serious
disruption of the ecosystems of the biosphere, including land degradation,
rapid loss of biodiversity, global heating and climate disruption, from
greenhouse gases released from profligate combustion of fossil fuels,
and deforestation. Effects of the anthropocene over the past decade
include extreme weather events, resource depletion and threats to food
and water security to an unsustainable and possibly irreversible extent.
Transition from anthropocene to sustainocene will require radical political,
economic and social changes. At the biosphere level, changes include
population stabilization, inequalities reduction, education, and uncoupling
economic development and employment from fossil fuel use and environmental
destruction. In terms of personal health it will require less energy-rich
foodstuffs and more physical activity.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Since retirement from the ANU Health
Service, Bryan Furnass has extended his interests in the health of humans
to the health of the biosphere, on which we all depend. He is a member
of the Strategic Council of the Climate Institute.