How is the Anthropocene viewed by biologists? While there are many negative views from the conservation biology community, some of the discussion has not yet reached the whole field. This article by Corlett summarizes the discussion and highlights a number of important questions.
After debating whether technically the Anthropocene has actually begun (an inconsequential point for most practical purposes), Corlett discusses the consequences of the rise of the Anthropocene for the field of Ecology. First, he argues that in a rapidly and globally changing world, core ecological assumptions will have to be revisited, especially in the field of Island Biogeography. He then points out that “conservation can no longer focus on preserving and restoring ecosystems of the past” and that human influenced systems and natural systems can not be treated as separate anymore. Corlett makes an interesting point about the different histories of the conservation movements in Europe and the US. Acceptance of the new situation seems easier in Europe, where “almost all landscapes were altered centuries ago” and pristine, natural landscapes are very limited. This is clearly different in the US and this difference seems to fuel a lot of the controversial discussion we have witnessed lately about conservation in the Anthropocene.
Corlett finishes his thoughts by pointing to the human dimension of the Anthropocene. This should be a given, provided the name, but is sometimes a bit ignored by biologists. Consequently, there is a dire need for translational research bringing together natural scientists with social scientists and the humanities. In this sense the Anthropocene is an important research opportunity, but at the same time a critical situation we need to respond to. The most powerful statement about this comes towards the end of the paper when Corlett points to the moral dimension of our approach to the Anthropocene. He simply points out that we choose which Anthropocene will actually happen.