Keynote Presentations from the 2nd AVEC International Summer School, Peyresq, 18-30 September 2005

Speaker: Will Steffen
Visiting Fellow, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Australian Government, GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

Title of the talk: The evolution of the Anthropocene: From hunter-gatherers to a global geophysical force (pdf: 9MB)

Summary of the talk by Mirek Trnka: Students´ summary (pdf)


The evolution of the Anthropocene: From hunter-gatherers to a global geophysical force

For nearly all of human existence on Earth, we have been hunter-gatherers, capable of influencing the environment on local, and occasionally larger, scales but in general subject to the vagaries of the great forces of nature. In a remarkably short period of time, over just a few centuries, the human-environment relationship has reversed to the point that there is now concern for the future stability of the global environment because of the influence of human activities on Earth System functioning. This transformation has been especially rapid over the past 50 years, prompting some scientists to refer to this post-World War II period as the "Great Acceleration". How has this transformation occurred? When and how did humans begin to rival the great forces of nature in our influence on Earth System functioning? What are the stages of the Anthropocene and what are the major transitions between such stages? What has triggered the Great Acceleration? How will the Anthropocene unfold over the rest of this century and beyond? These intriguing questions are prompting a redefinition of human history, from focussing on kings, wars and conquests to the changing interactive relationship between humans and our environment.

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