Monday, October 24, 2016


We have not only entered a new era, we may be in a new epoch 

Some interesting new organisations are emerging to address the complicated problematique of interlocking issues facing our planet and its human population. The first and second generation messages on climate change concentrated on doom and disaster. The message is now switching to interlocking solutions and what we can do to solve these problems in the near and far future. Alongside that, new concepts of 'solution journalism' and 'constructive journalism' are being adopted by an increasing number of editorial boards and newsrooms to create a better sense of balance in the news coverage they feed us.

For the last 12,000 years or so, since the end of the last ice age, there has been a geological epoch called the Holocene ("entirely recent"), a period of relatively stable climate which enabled human life  and civilisation on the planet to survive and thrive.

But  since the mid-2oth century, there has been a noted acceleration  of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development
which has taken us into a  new epoch called the Anthropocene.

The term Anthropocene ("new man") was coined in the 1980s by biologist Eugene Stoermer but he never formalised it. It was independently re-invented and popularised in 2000 by the Nobel prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen who, along with many other international scientists, is arguing that this new epoch should be formally recognised.

At the recent International Geological Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, out of the 35 experts recognised as the Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA), 30 voted for the declaration of the new epoch. 

 Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist from the University of Leicester in the UK  who was the chair of the working group, told The Guardian. 

“The significance of the Anthropocene is that it sets a different trajectory for the Earth system, of which we of course are part…we have lived most of our lives in something called the Anthropocene and are just realising the scale and permanence of the change.”

There is still  debate as to whether the Athropocene should be an epoch in its own right or just the latest part of the Holocene. If it is a new epoch when did it begin. Some believe it should be marked some 5,000 years back when humans introduced agriculture leading to a rise in the concentration of methane n the atmosphere. 

Others point to the period between 1945 and 1963, when nations conducted some 500 above-ground nuclear explosions before the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty took effect  Richard Manastersky writes in Nature
'Debris from those explosions circled the globe and created an identifiable layer of radioactive elements in sediments. At the same time, humans were making geological impressions in a number of other ways — all part of what has been called the Great Acceleration of the modern world. Plastics started flooding the environment, along with aluminium, artificial fertilizers, concrete and leaded petrol, all of which have left signals in the sedimentary record.'
 There has to be a clear signal of a change in the geological record for a new epoch to be declared. Further research over the next few years will now be carried out to prove the scientific validity of the Anthropocene concept by determining which markers are the strongest and sharpest, by finding a specific location where there is a clear boundary between the geologic layers, and officially identify when it started. These findings will then be submitted to the International Commission on Stratisgraphy (ICS) for consideration, before it can be  formalised by the International Union of Geological Sciences.

Pau Crutzen believes the name change is overdue. In 2007, he identified what he calls the “great acceleration” of human impacts on the planet from the mid-20th century. 
He says: “This name change stresses the enormity of humanity’s responsibility as stewards of the Earth.” 

Sources: 'The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age'
Damian Carrington The Guardian/29th August 2016

'Anthropocene: The Human Age' by Richard Manastersky [Nature 11th March 2015]



Anthropocene Magazine is a project from a US-based organisation called Future Earth. 
The development if the magazine is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Subtitled 'Innovation in The Human Age', this is their pitch: 'We are a digital, print, and live magazine in which the world’s most creative writers, designers, scientists, and entrepreneurs explore how we can create a sustainable human age we actually want to live in.'
They describe it as an evolution from 'Conservation' magazine, which was run by the University of Washington and published from 2000-2014. All issues are online here.
There is also a in-built crowd funding membership system - what they call reader-supported journalism: 'That means that a significant portion of our operating costs comes from people like you—that is people who believe that it is time to start talking about environmental solutions, not just problems. Membership comes with benefits including high-end print editions, conversations with authors, and networking opportunities.'

Who is Future Earth?

'Launched in 2015, Future Earth is a 10-year initiative to advance Global Sustainability Science, build capacity in this rapidly expanding area of research and provide an international research agenda to guide natural and social scientists working around the world. But it is also a platform for international engagement to ensure that knowledge is generated in partnership with society and users of science. We are closely engaged in international processes such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and climate and biodiversity agreements (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity).Future Earth is built on many decades of international research on global environmental change carried out by projects sponsored by DIVERSITAS, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP). Over 20 projects, ranging from the Global Carbon Project to the Earth System Governance project, have joined Future Earth. From this intellectual base Future Earth is launching Knowledge-Action Networks to catalyze new research and partnerships around eight key challenges to global sustainability.Future Earth’s five Global Hubs are based in Colorado, Montreal, Paris, Stockholm and Tokyo and coordinate and catalyse new research for global sustainability. Regional Centres are operational in Asia, Europe, the Middle-East and North Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, while Regional Offices are emerging in Africa and South Asia. National Structures are also forming in countries across the planet.We are an open network for scientists of all disciplines, natural and social, as well as engineering, the humanities and law. We endorse world-class projects, networks and institutes who can contribute to our research agenda and are committed to transformation.The Governing Council of Future Earth is composed of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the STS forum and members of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability. They include the International Council for Science(ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization(UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU), and the World Meteorological Organization
'The digital revolution has opened up new possibilities to connect people around ideas and technology that we could not have imagined even a decade ago. We start from this premise.
The co-creation of communications platforms and collaborative storytelling around global sustainability will be game changing. Innovative projects – whether they concern virtual reality, artificial intelligence or data-driven storytelling – can only emerge from a very open, collaborative and – to borrow a term from the MIT Media Lab – anti-disciplinary way of working.
Designing and creating such projects can and will help to bring science, art, design and technology closer together. Our theory of change is to create platforms and products that drive new types of connections between people and planet, to immerse people in the challenges of global sustainability and deepen their personal sense of involvement.
The Future Earth Media Lab is a partnership between people at Future Earth, Globaïa and the International Council for Science. We are a space for projects that connect science, design, technology and art to change how people think about the planet they live on.
The lab is part of the Future Earth research programme. Future Earth began in 2015 and coordinates international research for global sustainability. Global sustainability is the science of people and planet. It is about the ice sheets and atmosphere, the waterways and soils, the rich diversity of life and cultures. It is about societies, politics, economics and global dynamics.
We want to create pioneering, experimental approaches to engage with science that can spread, inspire and spark new trends.'
See one of their websites;  Welcome to the Anthropocene

Source: Climatica

the ANTHROPOCENE project

The Anthropocene Project is a unique multidisciplinary investigation including a feature documentary from acclaimed filmmaking team Jennifer Baichwal, Nick de Pencier (Mercury Films) and Edward Burtynsky, marking the third in the trilogy following Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark; a fine art book published by Steidl and a museum exhibition including video, virtual reality and large scale Burtynsky photographs; and an educational, interactive website.

The Anthropocene film follows an international group of geologists — the Anthropocene Working Group — who are proposing the renaming of our current interglacial epoch, Holocene, to Anthropocene in recognition of lasting changes to the earth’s system, both positive and negative. Using high-end production values and cutting edge camera technologies, the filmmaking team has traversed the globe to document the most profound evidence of human planetary interaction and impact. Combining hard science with stunning visual sequences, the Anthropocene film documents an historic moment in human history and brings a visceral and unforgettable understanding of our species’ reach and impact.

The projected release date is Fall 2018.



This project “Seeds of a Good Anthropocene” is a collaboration led by McGill University in Canada, the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University in Sweden, and the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. It forms part of the initiative  “Bright Spots – Seeds of a Good Anthropocene,” a FutureEarth funded project in its first phase (2014-2016). 
OBJECTIVE: We aim to counterbalance current dystopic visions of the future that may be inhibiting our ability to move towards a positive future for the Earth and humanity. We will do this by soliciting, exploring, and developing a suite of alternative, plausible “Good Anthropocenes” – positive visions of futures that are socially and ecologically desirable, just, and sustainable. We expect that any “Good Anthropocene” that emerges will be radically different from the world as people know it today. Yet we also know that these futures will be composed of many elements already in existence, which we call “seeds’, which could combine in unique and surprising ways to create an almost unimaginable future.
APPROACH: The seeds of alternative good futures already occur in many places around the world. Identifying where these elements of a Good Anthropocene currently exist on the planet, and understanding how and why they occur, can help us envision how people might help these seeds grow into new, positive futures for the Earth and humanity. It is essential that we gather seeds from a diversity of disciplines, worldviews, values, and regions, even if we cannot hope to be represent all the great initiatives out there. Seeds are being solicited specifically from different communities of research and practice around the world, and more openly through this blog platform. The outputs of our project will include a database of seeds for analysis, a story-telling blog, scenarios and games, as well as academic and popular articles.
One simple example of a 'seed ' is 

'Fossil Fuel divestment is a rapidly growing campaign which aims to morally stigmatize the fossil fuel industry.  Divestment is the opposite of investment, it is the removal of your investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds, and recently a global movement for fossil fuel divestment, also called disinvestment, is demanding that key people and organisations halt their investments in oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These organisations include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations.   Previous divestment campaigns have targeted the tobacco and gambling industries and companies funding the violence in Darfur. Divestment is perhaps most well known for its role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. ' 


'We support and connect journalists interested in doing solutions journalism, rigorous reporting about how people are responding to problems. We do this in three ways: (1) advising and supporting media outlets around the country in creating high-impact solutions reporting projects; (2) developing educational tools and resources to build journalists' skills in solutions reporting and editing; and (3) connecting and supporting those interested in how social problems are being solved.'

Based in New York City, SJN works with newsrooms all over the United States ans is beginning to branch out to other countries. Offers whole-newsroom workshops in Solutions Journalism; technical and financial support for specific solutions projects; web-based tools; database of 1,100+ examples; virtual and in some cities, physical networks of like-minded journalists; support and assistance for journalism-school professors.


Based at the Windesheim University in the Netherlands. Works with media and journalism schools on three continents: Europe, North America, Africa. Offers to Newsroom Journalists: Presentations, master classes and whole-newsroom workshops in Constructive Journalism. Research on CJ, research database, upcoming home for an international hub for constructive journalism: creating a network between media and journalism institutions working with CJ

  • adds a solution-oriented framing of news.
  • conveys a productive perspective about the future. And about our ability to get there. 
  • is critical but never cynical.
  • puts new questions to power, so-called victims and experts, inquiring about resources, collaborations and solutions on issues of high societal significance.
  • calls on the press to take its commitment to democratic participation and public debate seriously.
  • engages the public and possibly co-creates with them.
Thereby achieving a more accurate portrayal of the world, strengthened accountability and core functions of journalism.

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