Is human pressure on Earth driving the Anthropocene over the edge?
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?
When: April 16, 2015 at 4:00 PM*
Who: Dr. Mariana Fischer-Kowalski
Where: 1250 24th St NW, 2nd floor conference center. Free and open to the public. Reception to follow.
*Please note this seminar will start half an hour earlier than other events
Professor of Social Ecology and Coordinator of Sustainability Research, Alpen Adria University; Senior Lecturer at the University of Vienna in environmental sociology. She has been teaching at Yale University, at Griffith University, at the Universidad Federal de Rio de Janeiro and at Roskilde University. She is a member of the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Programme and first author of its report on “Decoupling Resource use and Environmental Impact from Economic Growth“ (2011). She has been, inter alia, president of the International Society for Industrial Ecology and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research (PIK); currently, she is President of the International Society for Ecological Economics. Other books include “Socioecological Transitions and Global Change“, and “Ester Boserup’s Legacy for Sustainability."