Northeastern Section - 54th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 44-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


GOMBY, Gary, Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, Nicolaus Copernicus Hall 506, New Britain, CT 06050

The Anthropocene has been defined as the period during which humans have become a global geophysical force. The concept of the Anthropocene can be expanded beyond this “narrow” definition to a more all-encompassing view of the ethical, social and economic implications of human activity on planetary systems. It is no longer possible, nor desirable to compartmentalize human activity into traditional disciplines. I suggest that the Anthropocene can be used as the framework for a trans-disciplinary study of humanity’s relationship with the Earth.

The essence of the Anthropocene, is in fact, that business as usual is wholly unacceptable. Therefore, new paradigms for communicating geoscience to our students and the public are essential if business as usual outcomes are to be avoided. As such, I have been developing a “Human Impacts” course over the last three years that uses the Anthropocene as its organizing principle. By definition, the Anthropocene demands a transdisciplinary approach to Earth System studies. At a minimum, it requires the understanding that in a world of 7.5 billion, soon to reach 9.8 billion by midcentury, individual choices do make a difference. No longer can we be content instructing students about scientific processes in the abstract; rather they must learn to recognize that they live in a telecoupled world—a globalized, connected world—where choices made by individuals in one location have profound ramifications in distant places.

It is thus both desirable and necessary to frame the discussion of geophysical processes and systems in the context of human impacts on Earth Systems and impacts by these Earth Systems on human socioeconomic systems. It is critical and essential that students understand socioeconomic systems and environmental systems are dynamically linked. Discussion of sustainability thus becomes a natural part of the discussion of any linked system. It arises naturally, rather than as a goal in and of itself. The Anthropocene is perforce a global lesson in unsustainable human behaviors. The window of opportunity for human success on Earth has been the Holocene; we have now entered the Anthropocene, an epoch with profound implications for humanity’s future. It is now necessary to teach the Anthropocene.