Prospection and the Anthropocene

I’d like to share two recent items from the news that make a sobering pairing.

The first is an opinion piece in the New York Times by psychologist Martin Seligman and Times science writer John Tierny summarizing a new theory about human beings that emphasizes our orientation toward the future. Continue reading

“Relative impacts of mitigation, temperature, and precipitation on 21st-century megadrought risk in the American Southwest”

CITATION:
Ault, T.R. et al. 2016. Science Advances, vol. 2, e1600873
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
Megadroughts are comparable in severity to the worst droughts of the 20th century but are of much longer duration. A megadrought in the American Southwest would impose unprecedented stress on Continue reading

The Iconoclastic Anthropocene: On How We Choose to Destroy Art

Ivo Bazzechi Cimabue FloodOn November 4, 1966, the Arno overflowed its banks into the streets of Florence. A number of prominent foreign art historians, including Frederick Hartt and John Shearman, arrived soon thereafter to assist their Italian colleagues, working generally under the oversight of the Uffizi’s conservation director Umberto Baldini, in developing a response to a cultural emergency: the Italian Renaissance was underwater. Their collective expertise facilitated the arduous work of restoring what could be salvaged from the flood, which had Continue reading

“Climate, Environment and Early Human Innovation: Stable Isotope and Faunal Proxy Evidence from Archaeological Sites (98-59ka) in the Southern Cape, South Africa”

CITATION:

Roberts, P., C. S. Henshilwood, K. L. van Niekerk, P. Keene, A. Gledhill, J. Reynard, S. Badenhorst and J. Lee-Thorp. 2016 PLoS One 11(7):e0157408.

ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:

The Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa, and in particular its Still Bay and Howiesons Poort lithic traditions, represents a period of dramatic subsistence, cultural, and technological innovation by Continue reading

Surviving the Anthropocene Part 2: Of Omega Points and Oil

My previous post lamented the flawed presentation of climate change at the David Koch-funded Hall of Human Origins and suggested that a spiritual-scientific ideology, traceable in part to Teilhard de Chardin, infuses the Smithsonian’s Human Origins initiative and related events. In this follow-up, I take a closer look at this ideology and its connection to broader currents in contemporary evolutionary thought and the Anthropocene. Continue reading

Surviving the Anthropocene: Big Brains and Big Money at the Smithsonian

We welcome Lisa Sideris, of Indiana University, as a guest on the blog . . . click for her bio, or go to the “Who we are” tab. This is the first installment of a two-part post; please come back again Friday for the conclusion.


In late May this year, two related attractions drew me to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in D.C.  One was an ambitious-sounding Continue reading

The real inconvenient truth?

This will not be a very scientific post, but it is also not a rant. I am trying to understand something: why is there so little large scale planning and discussion about the inevitable and grave consequences of climate change?

There is a surprising amount of Continue reading

The fundamental ethical adaptation: anthroponomy

We welcome to the blog Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, of Case Western Reserve University, for the next in our series on Environmental Political Theory.


I’m one of those people who doesn’t like the term “environmentalism.” I think every human should take care of her home, want to be mindful of other forms of life on Earth, and should Continue reading

Hypothesized Hope

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR ANTHROPOCENE BIOSPHERE PROJECT–A SERIES OF POSTS ON ERLE ELLIS’ ‘ECOLOGY IN AN ANTHROPOGENIC BIOSPHERE‘ (ECOLOGICAL MONOGRAPHS, 85/3 (2015))

In preparation for Erle Ellis’ visit to OU’s campus in April, I’ve spent some time considering topics I hope we can address during his visit. Continue reading

“The Global Carbon Cycle: A Test of Our Knowledge of Earth as a System”

CITATION:
P. Falkowski et al. 2000. Science, vol. 290, pp. 291-296.
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
Motivated by the rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 due to human activities since the Industrial Revolution, several international scientific research programs have analyzed the role of Continue reading

“Early warning of climate tipping points”

CITATION:
Timothy M. Lenton. 2011. Nature Climate Change 1, pp. 201-209.
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
A climate ‘tipping point’ occurs when a small change in forcing triggers a strongly nonlinear response in the internal dynamics of part of the climate system, qualitatively changing its future state. Human-induced climate change could Continue reading

“Species-specific responses of Late Quartenary megafauna to climate and humans”

CITATION:
E.D. Lorenzen, et al. 2011. Nature 479, pp. 359–364.
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
Despite decades of research, the roles of climate and humans in driving the dramatic extinctions of large-bodied mammals during the Late Quaternary period remain contentious. Here we use ancient DNA, species distribution models and the human fossil record to Continue reading

“Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought”

CITATION:
Colin P. Kelly et al. 2015. PNAS, Vol. 112, No. 11, pp. 3241-326.
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to Continue reading

“Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home”

CITATION:
Pope Francis. 2015. Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home [Encyclical].
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
The Encyclical takes its name from the invocation of Saint Francis, “Praise be to you, my Lord”, in his Canticle of the Creatures. It reminds us that Continue reading

“Loess: The Yellow Earth”

THIS POST IS PART OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT—SEE THIS DESCRIPTION OF OUR SUBMISSION.
CITATION:
Smalley, I., and Rogers, C. 1996. Geology Today, Vol. 12, No. 5, pp. 186-193.
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
ABSTRACT:
A wind-deposited silt forming large deposits in China and middle America, loess is the basis of much grade-one agricultural land, and has sourced the building materials for civilizations. Produced largely as a result of Continue reading