Our gift to Mother Earth: The Anthropocene

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki [Image: Wikipedia Commons]
A friend recently had an uninvited guest visiting his car – a rat. Unfortunately, my friend came to know of the guest only after the visitor passed on to the netherworld when it got stuck with the wires in the car trunk, disrupting the car’s air-conditioning system. The departed visitor had gifted a bill of Rs. 5,000 to my friend towards restoring the car to its former glory.

To my surprise, my friend was not frustrated with the unwelcome rat. Rather, he felt remorse for having entered the rat’s ecosystem by purchasing a flat on the outskirts of Hyderabad. This part of the city was once part of a large wilderness, he said, and he wondered how much further damage his household had caused to the Earth’s once-pristine surroundings.

Not all of us would share my friend’s guilt, but it is a fact that the Earth has lost a considerable lot of its wilderness in recent years. One study estimates that one-tenth of global wilderness has been lost since 1990. This loss of wilderness has created disruptions in maintaining biodiversity, contributed to climate change and also disturbed indigenous populations. While it is easy to suggest that policy makers have to done more to conserve the environment, we as individuals and as members of the human race have to take responsibility.

A more alarming announcement came towards the end of the International Geological Congress held in Cape Town in August 2016. A working group of geologists has announced that we have entered a new geological ageAnthropocene – “The Age of Humans”. It has been suggested that the new age started around 1950, eerily, after the World Wars. If this announcement is formalized, then we would have bid adieu to the Holocene, the last naturally induced epoch, and entered a new (and the first) era caused entirely due to human impact.

With growing unrest among people for access to water and other natural resources, we cannot keep denying that humans do not impact the environment. Even more, we cannot claim that we have enough resources to keep consuming at the unsustainable rate we do now. Well, there is always the other alternative: we have, of course, discovered a new, potentially habitable planet – Proxima b – even though it would take only 70,000 years to get there!

Are we going to continue exploiting Mother Earth in ways that will make things worse for us? Or are we going to pack our bags and leave planet Earth?!


3 thoughts on “Our gift to Mother Earth: The Anthropocene

  1. Hi Satish, interesting article and I agree – human consumption at current rates is clearly unsustainable (and leaving Earth just isn’t and never will be a viable option given the mind boggling distances involved).
    The fundamental problem is the current human population – there is absolutely no sustainable way to feed, water, clothe and house 7 billion people. We are getting by at the moment by using up non-renewable resources at a rapid rate but time is running out and future generations will pay the price. The current generation will be vilified (and rightly so) for their inaction just like we now vilify previous generations for their views on the slave trade.

    I read this article recently which is very interesting. It really highlights the environmental cost of each human in the Western world.

    And also, if you have the time I would highly recommend reading a book called “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith. Despite the title the book covers so much more than just comparing and contrasting a Vegetarian or Vegan diet with an Omnivirous diet. It discusses what we actually mean about sustainability and builds a compelling argument that 7 billion humans is not sustainable no matter what type of diet they choose to eat. I’ve read it twice now as it is such a captivating book but I do want to issue a small warning – for me it was by FAR the most depressing book that I’ve ever read!




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