The “Anthropocene” doesn’t have to be our darkest hour

I came across a recent op-ed in the New York Times written by Emma Marris and others, including famous conservation biologist Peter Kareiva of The Nature Conservancy. Emma Marris wrote a book that I’m currently reading called “Rambunctious Garden“. Both the book and the op-ed are about how our human-dominated green areas aren’t a waste of space. In fact, if we can just put a little more effort into these areas (plant animal food plants, reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, limit water use, etc.) we could turn human-altered areas into useful habitat and ecosystems, even within cities and suburbs!

The op-ed is in response to a paper written by researchers from UC Davis (including my fellow 2011 Switzer Fellow, Tavis Forrester). Their paper, published in Conservation Biology and entitled “Conservation in the Anthropocene” is, Marris et al. claims, about how calling this current epoch the “Anthropocene” creates an air of despair- almost like calling this “the age of man” makes people feel that nature is done for. We have already “conquered” (read: destroyed) the earth so why care about it? The Conservation Biology paper authors warn against using the term “Anthropocene”, suggesting it could spark further degradation and exploitation of the earth. I disagree with them. We might as well call it what it is and work with what we’ve got. So do the op-ed writers, check out why for yourself: Hope in the Age of Man.

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About tcornelisse

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4 Responses to The “Anthropocene” doesn’t have to be our darkest hour

  1. Gloria Bennett says:

    Yes, I agree with the authors in the ‘Hope in the age of man’ article (although I think the ‘age of man’ phrase is a bit of an anachronism). I work in the ecological industry and am faced with this argument all the time. I am constantly told that such and such a wild area is really just ecological crap because it does not contain the ‘right’ species. If, for example, it has too many exotics or not enough rare natives it is considered unimportant. I get really annoyed with it. If people want to enjoy nature, and their lives, they need to look a little closer. Valuable nature is not tucked away in national parks (although you can find it there too) it is right under our noses in our local parks, gardens, areas of ‘waste land’ etc. Conservation has had a very laudable goal for years now of saving the things that are rare. The unintended side effect is that people only think that rare things are valuable (it is pure economics). Whenever someone points out a bird to me that is not rare, for instance, they always pre-fix it with something like ‘oh, it is just…’. As if just because it is not rare it must be of no real importance. This thinking is massively detrimental to the environment and peoples emotional well being. They need to be educated to enjoy, appreciate and nurture the nature that is all around them. The focus on rarity and nativeness is increasingly counterproductive to both people and the environment they are a part of it.

  2. tcornelisse says:

    Well said! Thanks for your comment.

  3. Pingback: (True) Bugs in the City | Conservation of Biodiversity

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