The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene A

The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene A Pelican Book (Audio Download): Simon Lewis, Mark A. Maslin, Roy McMillan, Penguin Books Ltd : Audible Audiobooks Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Human Planet, a Pelican Book, by Simon L Lewis and Mark A Maslin, read by Roy McMillan Meteorites, methane, mega volcanoes and now human beings the old forces of nature that transformed Earth many millions of years ago are joined by another us Our actions have driven Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene For the first time in our home planet sbillion year history a single species is dictating Earth s future To some the Anthropocene symbolises a future of superlative control of our environment To others it is the height of hubris, the illusion of our mastery over nature Whatever your view, just below the surface of this odd sounding scientific word, the Anthropocene, is a heady mix of science, philosophy, religion and politics linked to our deepest fears and utopian visions Tracing our environmental impact through time to reveal when humans began to dominate Earth, Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin show what the new epoch means for the future of humanity, the planet and life itself

8 thoughts on “The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene A Pelican Book (Audio Download): Simon Lewis, Mark A. Maslin, Roy McMillan, Penguin Books Ltd : Audible Audiobooks

  1. William Geddes William Geddes says:

    Most of the content of this book is pure dottiness brought on by wild speculation and conjecture on the part of the authors I first reached this conclusion when, almost half way through the book, I read the section in Chapter 5 entitled A Global Quake Of The Earth System in which, amongst other things, they conclude that a 2ppm decline in atmospheric CO2 in the fourteenth century was caused by the death of 25 milllion people in Europe due to the plague In fact, one of the main messages given throughout the book is that Man s influence on atmospheric CO2 and the climate started well before the Industrial Revolution In addition to warming, they claim that the Little Ice Age was in large part caused by a fall in atmospheric CO2 resulting from the death of 50 million native Americans from European diseases brought in by Columbus and his associates, which led to a decline in farming and a regrowth of native forests which sucked up huge quantities of CO2, thereby causing a sharp decline in world temperature The authors are both Professors within the Geography Department of UCL Some people believe that a geographer is a Jack of all Trades, but Master of None This book is strong on questionable social and economic theories, but short on science In fact, the second half is a textbook of social and economic history which degenerates into a longwinded discussion of geological bureaucracy which many geologists will find tedious, before reverting to the inevitable central theme of Global Warming They go on about ocean acidification,and wonder how we will remove this excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere They apparently do not know about ocean buffering and Henry s Law whereby, in proportion to its partial pressure in the atmosphere, CO2 goes into solution in the oceans and is precipitated as limestone or sequestered by marine organisms It has been calculated that the burning of all currently available fossil fuel resources would increase atmospheric CO2 concentration by just 20 per cent Nor do they seem to know that the warming effects of CO2 decline as its concentration increases As I ve said,the book is sheer piffle

  2. Niko Jaakkola Niko Jaakkola says:

    This is a book which raises very mixed thoughts The authors assert that we are now living in the Anthropocene epoch, a new stage of geological time defined by the global impacts we humans are having on the environment, and the lasting traces these changes will leave in the geological record In a handful of chapters, they outline these traces, some of which are mind boggling A future geologist investigating the fossil record would observe, for example, a sudden dramatic mixing of plant and animal species across the various continents, after millions of years of isolated speciation, as a result of trade starting around the time of the discovery and conquest of the Americas Similarly, there is a contemporaneous small drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, resulting from the inadvertent introduction of European diseases into the Americas, leading to a collapse of the native populations, with consequent regrowth of forests on what used to be farmland sucking up carbon from the atmosphere There is the layer of novel radioactive isotopes starting in 1945 with the first atomic bomb test, some of which will be detectable for millions of years from now And, of course, there is the spiking of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, potentially leading to dramatic changes in sea levels, and helping along a possible sixth mass extinction.That we humans now have the power to leave a permanent signal in the very rocks itself is a mind blowing idea However, the authors then part the curtain to give us a glimpse of how the geological sausage is made The describe the fierce battles among geologists as to whether these changes are, in fact, sufficient for a new geological epoch to said to have started This is less interesting and less edifying, bringing to mind Sayre s Law about academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so low The authors try to make their case on scientific grounds, identifying the not always consistent criteria by which the geological record has been divided up thus far, and arguing that, indeed, the changes in the past few thousand years will leave a mark which satisfies these criteria At heart, this involves imagining whether a future geologist, perhaps a million years from now, would be able to detect changes in a manner so that, if they followed our ways of classifying geological time, these changes would lead them to declare a new geological epoch to have started, say, around 1600 AD.This is a bizarre exercise It is as if Radiohead were to release a new album today, and in the reviews next week music critics would be fighting over whether the album has started off a whole new genre of music with the answer partly depending on the critics assessment over whether other bands are expected, over the next decade, to pick up the stylistic innovations Radiohead have come up with last week It is completely missing the point about music The argument over whether the Anthropocene has begun or not and when exactly, anyway is, similarly, missing the point about the impact we are having on the environment in which we must live.So why is this being fought over Because, unlike the evolution of popular music, the evolution of our global environment is one of the biggest political issues we are facing in the next century Some geologists including the authors are keen to have a say in that debate, and the way they can have a say is by declaring a new geological time period Geology looks into the deep past, at the prehistory of the Earth over millions or even billions of years We are now doing things to our planet in the blink of an eye, in terms of geological time The way geologists have conceptualised the world is not very well suited to thinking about such rapid changes But one has to work with the tools one has.The debate over the Anthropocene is, ultimately, a political decision an attempt to influence current political debates and about putting a veneer of scientific respectability on this attempt Sadly, even this veneer cracks when the authors turn to their analysis of the economics of global change To be brief, they paint an extremely broad brush synthesis of the evolution of human societies, from hunter gatherer societies, via farming, mercantile capitalism and the like, to the current stage which they call consumer capitalism The reader wonders, when this last stage and its associated acceleration of environmental problems is discussed, how the authors square their analysis with the fact that communist countries had, if anything, even greater harmful impacts on the environment than their counterparts in the West This is clarified in an endnote, in which the authors argue without a hint of irony or self awareness that they actually classify communism as part of consumer capitalism The veil has fallen off surely capitalism , as used by Lewis and Maslin, has lost any meaning at all The authors are so desperate to stick to a Marxist economic analysis, in which societal defects can be pinned on something called capitalism , that they have to contort the meaning of the term beyond recognition for the conceptual framework to agree with empirical reality.Their broad brush analysis of the evolution of human societies is useful and interesting, but the extrapolation of this analysis into the future is not At the scale the authors discuss, human societies are experiencing such fundamental changes that extrapolation will have very, very little predictive value To top it all off, they even devote several pages to discussing how Universal Basic Income might help us along in the transition to a new, enlightened, less rapacious stage of societal organisation Needless to say, there are no references to actual economics literature It s hard not to be baffled by this how did we get from the Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago to half baked arguments for universal basic income Experts on discussions of global environmental change should know the dangers of moving outside one s own field of expertise There have been dozens of ideologically driven attempts, by people who know zilch about climate science, to prove how climate change is not happening These analyses are repeatedly demolished by actual experts, who roll their eyes in frustration at having to time and again point out trivial mistakes made by amateurs Yet, when it comes to economics, there is often a tendency by natural scientists to blithely sally forth with similar audacity, with casual unsubstantiated criticism of mainstream economics and a complete ignorance of basic facts, concepts and arguments Sadly, the last part of Lewis and Maslin s book is a good example of how this can go wrong It is a real shame, as half of the book the part in which the authors actually talk about the many ways in which we humans have left long lasting, global changes on our environment is exciting and a lot of fun.

  3. David Finig David Finig says:

    The things which stood out for me The Columbian exchange chapter is jaw dropping It s an amazing collation of ideas and I ve never heard of them before Your argument for why the proposed start date of the Anthropocene matters the fact that it s about the narrative we tell ourselves, and the way that different dates imply different narratives, is great I ve been unpacking that a lot with friends and family over the christmas break we ve been debating how we use science to tell ourselves different stories I loved the discussion of the Anthropocene Working Group internals A great unpacking of the culture of science, and how it takes place within a social and political context The final chapter is brilliant, and I ve highlighted a lot of it these are ideas that I think really enrich our perception of the crisis The example of the Mayan civilisation de complexifying without that necessarily being a negative for the farmers in the system is a really great tonic to our current narratives of doom and gloom.

  4. R Jarrald R Jarrald says:

    This is an excellent book detailing the impacts of human activity on the Earth and its systems from the origins of humanity to the Great Acceleration of the post war era It is written with passion and a high degree of clarity It is robust and evidence rich in its ascertions and highly accessible Maybe a little too much on definitions for the non specialists but I will be definitely be adding it to my students A level book list Also check out the other books in this excellent Pelican series.

  5. MediaPRO MediaPRO says:

    Must read Tiny pocket sized book, I have read it 3 times during train journeys Read it 4th time during lockdown It requires prior knowledge of sociology and anthropology If you believe in science and scientific validation, you can go ahead People who still believe there s a God out there in physical form that can help them get out of difficult situations, sorry guys, you won t be able to understand anything, it s not for you if you are a god worshipper and superstitious being who things science and God can go together For people in India, please don t use this book to prove your own wrong notions of Gods existing in India I know this because a god worshipper read this book and flat out refused to acknowledge evolutionary sciences and instead asked me, can your science make time machine I laughed for a month So guys, if you are born in any religious family, avoid this title completely.

  6. Arindom baidya Arindom baidya says:

    The writing is so small that one can barely reae a few pages without getting tired.

  7. Gabriela Rodriguez Gabriela Rodriguez says:

    Major work connecting archeology, geologg, history and social sciences for understanding our present time and howwe got here It should be mandatory in secondary education.

  8. Yehezkel Dror Yehezkel Dror says:

    The book starts with the promising statement For the first time in Earth s 4.5 billion year history, a single species is increasingly dictating its future p 3 It acknowledges that Once we recognize ourselves as a force of nature, we will need to address who directs this immense power, and to what ends p 8 and the political choices made over the coming few decades may well set the course for much of humanity over a far longer time period p.15 However the book fails to fulfill the promise of its initial statements, proceeding Instead to various aspects of the Anthropocene concept.They authors try to build a bridge between fateful issues facing the human species and their main concern with the nature and dating of the Anthropocene, postulating that Should the Anthropocene Epoch be incorporated into the official Geologic Time Scale And if so, who exactly is going to make this weighty decision which will undoubtedly have wide ranging repercussions on how we understand ourselves and our relationship to our home planet p 265 With due respect, this is an illusion.The length and dating of the Anthropocene as decided by a small group of specialists, to which most of the book is devoted, makes no difference to critical issues facing humankind Thus it is irrelevant to the very issues well posed in the book, such as The future of the only place in the universe where life is known to exist is increasingly being determined by human actions p 253 And the Anthropocene concept, as fully discussed, clearly does not help with the One key scientific challenge of our time is to understand the power we have Only then will we be able to answer the political question of our age wisely what should we do with this immense power p.16.As correctly admitted by the authors Some might find this debate over defining the Anthropocene of little scientific interest cleaving continuous change into discrete entities does not, in and of itself, help us to better understand the world p 326 But they are wrong in believing that a formal definition of the Anthropocene is a formal recognition by the scientific community that human impacts are at the level of dictating the future of the only place in the universe where life is known to exist This would be a historic declaration p 326b Many disciplines reach this conclusion, without needing a formal definition of the Anthropocene And technical agreement on the dating of the Anthropocene makes no difference to recognizing and coping with the escalating fateful challenges facing the human species.Parts of the book clearly reflect the high scientific qualifications and broad knowledge of the authors Thus, Chapter 10 How We Became a Force of Nature is excellent as far as it goes But, again, quite amazingly it ignores the sciences and technologies which for the first time enable humanity to steer its evolution and also bring about an extinction, such as nuclear technologies, gene editing, nana technologies, human enhancement and general artificial intelligence.The final chapter 11 Can Homo Dominatus Become Wise exits the preoccupation with the Anthropocene and tries to show a way to a desire future But I cannot but regard it as a failure, however mitigated by the fact than many others share similar illusions caused by wishful thinking displacing realistic understanding of humanity in acton Enough to mention the possibility of fanatics killing millions with mutated viruses, the likelihood of expensive human enhancement creating unprecedented society disrupting inequality between the few who can pay for prolonging life and the many who cannot, and the clear lesson of history that the powerful never give up their advantages without revolutionary violence in order to falsify the assumptions, recommendations and hopes of this chapter.What is most likely to happen is very different after major catastrophes a global emergency regime will enforce worldwide norms against much resistance, this becoming the only way to save humanity from self destruction And this is a relatively optimistic outlook compared to much worse ones which are also quite likely However such ways of thinking seem to be strange to the authors, though presented in quite a number of publications sorely missing in the extensive references provided in the book Still, authors are entitled to choose their subjects and engage in some dreaming In its own terms, the book is good and includes some outstanding chapter But I cannot in good conscience recommend it to readers who do not share an interest in secondary issues of the Anthropocene and who, instead, look for realistic ways for coping with fateful challenges increasingly facing humanity.Professor Yehezkel DrorThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *