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Down to Earth : Contextualizing the Anthropocene

Biermann, Frank LU ; Bai, Xuemei; Bondre, Ninad; Broadgate, Wendy; Arthur Chen, Chen Tung; Dube, Opha Pauline; Erisman, Jan Willem; Glaser, Marion; van der Hel, Sandra and Lemos, Maria Carmen, et al. (2016) In Global Environmental Change 39. p.341-350
Abstract

The ‘Anthropocene’ is now being used as a conceptual frame by different communities and in a variety of contexts to understand the evolving human–environment relationship. However, as we argue in this paper, the notion of an Anthropos, or ‘humanity’, as global, unified ‘geological force’ threatens to mask the diversity and differences in the actual conditions and impacts of humankind, and does not do justice to the diversity of local and regional contexts. For this reason, we interpret in this article the notion of an Anthropocene in a more context-dependent, localized and social understanding. We do this through illustrating examples from four issue domains, selected for their variation in terms of spatial and temporal scale, systems... (More)

The ‘Anthropocene’ is now being used as a conceptual frame by different communities and in a variety of contexts to understand the evolving human–environment relationship. However, as we argue in this paper, the notion of an Anthropos, or ‘humanity’, as global, unified ‘geological force’ threatens to mask the diversity and differences in the actual conditions and impacts of humankind, and does not do justice to the diversity of local and regional contexts. For this reason, we interpret in this article the notion of an Anthropocene in a more context-dependent, localized and social understanding. We do this through illustrating examples from four issue domains, selected for their variation in terms of spatial and temporal scale, systems of governance and functional interdependencies: nitrogen cycle distortion (in particular as it relates to food security); ocean acidification; urbanization; and wildfires. Based on this analysis, we systematically address the consequences of the lens of the Anthropocene for the governance of social-ecological systems, focusing on the multi-level, functional and sectoral organization of governance, and possible redefinitions of governance systems and policy domains. We conclude that the notion of the Anthropocene, once seen in light of social inequalities and regional differences, allows for novel analysis of issue-based problems in the context of a global understanding, in both academic and political terms. This makes it a useful concept to help leverage and (re-)focus our efforts in a more innovative and effective way to transition towards sustainability.

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publication status
published
subject
keywords
Anthropocene, Earth system governance, Food security, Nitrogen cycle, Ocean acidification, Urbanization, Wildfire
in
Global Environmental Change
volume
39
pages
10 pages
publisher
Global Environmental Change, Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:84949476930
  • wos:000381165100032
ISSN
0959-3780
DOI
10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.11.004
language
English
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yes
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a9d1e3a5-e34c-4bda-beaf-e82f25286c3f
date added to LUP
2017-01-24 12:20:58
date last changed
2017-10-22 05:25:28
@article{a9d1e3a5-e34c-4bda-beaf-e82f25286c3f,
  abstract     = {<p>The ‘Anthropocene’ is now being used as a conceptual frame by different communities and in a variety of contexts to understand the evolving human–environment relationship. However, as we argue in this paper, the notion of an Anthropos, or ‘humanity’, as global, unified ‘geological force’ threatens to mask the diversity and differences in the actual conditions and impacts of humankind, and does not do justice to the diversity of local and regional contexts. For this reason, we interpret in this article the notion of an Anthropocene in a more context-dependent, localized and social understanding. We do this through illustrating examples from four issue domains, selected for their variation in terms of spatial and temporal scale, systems of governance and functional interdependencies: nitrogen cycle distortion (in particular as it relates to food security); ocean acidification; urbanization; and wildfires. Based on this analysis, we systematically address the consequences of the lens of the Anthropocene for the governance of social-ecological systems, focusing on the multi-level, functional and sectoral organization of governance, and possible redefinitions of governance systems and policy domains. We conclude that the notion of the Anthropocene, once seen in light of social inequalities and regional differences, allows for novel analysis of issue-based problems in the context of a global understanding, in both academic and political terms. This makes it a useful concept to help leverage and (re-)focus our efforts in a more innovative and effective way to transition towards sustainability.</p>},
  author       = {Biermann, Frank and Bai, Xuemei and Bondre, Ninad and Broadgate, Wendy and Arthur Chen, Chen Tung and Dube, Opha Pauline and Erisman, Jan Willem and Glaser, Marion and van der Hel, Sandra and Lemos, Maria Carmen and Seitzinger, Sybil and Seto, Karen C.},
  issn         = {0959-3780},
  keyword      = {Anthropocene,Earth system governance,Food security,Nitrogen cycle,Ocean acidification,Urbanization,Wildfire},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {07},
  pages        = {341--350},
  publisher    = {Global Environmental Change, Elsevier},
  series       = {Global Environmental Change},
  title        = {Down to Earth : Contextualizing the Anthropocene},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.11.004},
  volume       = {39},
  year         = {2016},
}