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By Robert M. Thorson
When Americans quote writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, they often reach for his assertion that "In Wildness is the preservation of the world." This phrase elicited little response when Thoreau first read it during a lecture in 1851. A century later, however, it had become a guiding mantra for the American environmental movement, adopted by the Sierra Club as its motto and launched into the cultural stratosphere via bumper stickers, T-shirts and posters.
By Clara Chaisson
Anthropocene is a clunky word for an even more unwieldy concept. But props to the Merriam-Webster team who have given us a dictionary definition that's easy enough to follow.
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By Jessica Corbett
Underscoring the urgent need for increased and intensely focused conservation efforts, new research shows that human activity worldwide is wiping out plant and animal life—including our own—so rapidly that evolution can't keep up.
By Elizabeth West
What can we do? We are without doubt in an historically unique and incredibly challenging position. The Anthropogenic extinction is here, now. It is not something we are anticipating or awaiting. It is upon us. Today, we are in it, watching the life we have known unravel on a hundred different fronts. And I find myself asking with crazy-making regularity: how can I—one ordinary human amongst 7.5 billion—honor this extraordinary time with whatever gifts and goods I happen to be carrying?
Traditionally, we've labeled events over which we have no influence or control "acts of God" or "natural disasters." But what's "natural" about climate-induced disasters today? Scientists call the interval since the Industrial Revolution the "Anthropocene," a period when our species has become the major factor altering the biological, physical and chemical properties of the planet on a geological scale. Empowered by fossil fuel–driven technologies, a rapidly growing human population and an insatiable demand for constant growth in consumption and the global economy, our species is responsible for the calamitous consequences.
In an effort to understand how climate change is altering the carbon cycle, a project between the University of Oklahoma and NASA is headed to space. Orbiting 22,000 miles above Earth's surface, this host of instruments will track carbon as it flows through the Earth delivering real-time data and helping scientists quantify just how much humans are affecting the planet.
The planet, as we know it, has been given a deadline: 10 years. According to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, if humans don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically and maintain carbon sinks, like forests, then the results will be catastrophic for the climate. But the researchers have developed a model that they believe could do the trick.
By Robin Scher
It is impossible to predict the future. What we can do is extrapolate a vision from our current body of scientific knowledge, mixed with a bit of good old-fashioned imagination. The result is a sort of trailer, which offers us a glimpse of what may be in store.
By Nadia Prupis
Another day, another dire warning about the global climate emergency.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) top climate scientist announced Tuesday that the Earth is warming at a pace not seen in at least the past 1,000 years, making it "very unlikely" that global temperatures will stay below the 1.5 C limit agreed to in the landmark climate treaty negotiated in Paris last December.
Over the past century, temperatures began to rise at a rate that is 10 times faster than historical averages. Asian Development Bank / Flickr
"In the last 30 years, we've really moved into exceptional territory," Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the Guardian. "It's unprecedented in 1,000 years. There's no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination [of temperatures]."
"Maintaining temperatures below the 1.5 C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or coordinated geo-engineering," he continued, referring to controversial environmental manipulations. "That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2 C."
"It's the long-term trend we have to worry about though and there's no evidence it's going away and lots of reasons to think it's here to stay," Schmidt said. "There's no pause or hiatus in temperature increase. People who think this is over are viewing the world through rose-tinted spectacles. This is a chronic problem for society for the next 100 years."
Over the past century, temperatures began to rise at a rate that is 10 times faster than historical averages, according to research by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That means the Earth will warm up "at least" 20 times faster than historical average in the coming 100 years, NASA said.
This map represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 through 2012. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
In fact, the Guardian notes, "a NASA reconstruction shows that the pace of temperature increase over recent decades outstrips anything that has occurred since the year 500."
Meanwhile, as Common Dreams reported Monday, a group of experts gathering at the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa this week announced that human activities such as industrialization, nuclear bomb testing and increased greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming have so "profoundly altered the planet" that they have ushered in a new epoch—the Anthropocene.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.