Will Steffen, “The Anthropocene: The Risks of the Human Epoch”

Jan 30, 2020 | lectures

[Keynote Lecture]
“The Anthropocene: The Risks of the Human Epoch”
Speaker: Will Steffen (Australian National University)

International Symposium on Anthropocene Studies
Dec. 10-11, 2019
@ National Folk Museum of Korea

Lecture Abstract
The concept of the Anthropocene – and indeed the term “Anthropocene”-  arose from the Earth System science community nearly two decades ago. While research in the Earth System science and geological communities has continued to refine and sharpen the scientific definition of the Anthropocene, the concept has exploded onto the scene in the social sciences and humanities, and in the public in general. Debates rage about the origins, meaning and the future trajectory of the Anthropocene. The accelerating changes to the Earth System pose serious risks to the future of human societies as well as to the rest of life on Earth. The climate system is changing rapidly and could tip onto an irreversible ‘Hothouse Earth’ trajectory, while the biosphere is likely headed toward the sixth great extinction event in its long history. With these trajectories threatening to accelerate out of human control, young people are rising up to demand change. The student strikes of 15 March and 20 September 2019 are sending a clear message that the risks of the current Anthropocene trajectory are unacceptable to the next generation. Steering the Earth System onto a safer pathway is clearly our ultimate challenge in the 21st century, and although the challenge is immense and time is running out, the framework for a more equitable, sustainable world is beginning to emerge.