Campus Sustainability Office

Anthropocene (geological time period defined by human action) 

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Although human beings have played a role in landscape ecology for millennia, we have really stolen the show during the past century or so. For the sliver of evolutionary time that we have been active as Homo sapiens, we have really been active. Anthropocene is a term that was coined recently (2000, Crutzen and Stoermer) to describe the enormity of our impact, having reshaped the world to a degree and at a rate unparalleled by evolutionary history. Our ecological footprint alone shows us the enormity of our impact. It is estimated that if the entire world were to achieve a standard of living on par with the United States, it would take the equivalent of 4.5 Earths to meet our need for resources, natural capital, ecosystem services, and resilience. As it turns out, we only have one such inhabitable spaceship. Due to our destructive and extractive consumption, we are quickly approaching our carrying capacity, the ecological threshold beyond which most species experience a significant decline in health and numbers. Finding a way to mitigate dangerous consumption and restore our habitat will be key to a sustainable future-indeed, any future at all.

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