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Anthropocene

Submitted by on December 30, 2018 – 10:43 amNo Comment

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The Anthropocene, what is it? Where is it? And can you eat it? These burning questions lay heavy on the minds of the population. In the long tradition of this journal’s love of strange and unpronounceable words, Anthropocene must be one of the top.

Also this journal’s academic and vigorous endeavour to uphold the latest debates on the cutting edge of science, politics and social developments, with robust peer scrutiny, second only to The Lancet and Nature. The question of the Anthropcene stands in this long noble tradition.

I will attempt to answer the last question first. The answer is yes and no. Some of the Anthropocene can be eaten, some it most definitely can’t be eaten and some of it should be eaten but it’s a bit like supporting ‘Lush’. You want to support ‘Lush’ because of their campaign backing the women abused by the ‘spy-cops’ who posed as ‘activists’, then started a relationship with these women to spy on them and their friends, family and comrades. But £15 for shower gel that makes you smell of pumpkins is on the one hand a bit expensive and on the other very worrying.

I’ve had a fear of smelling of a pumpkin, someone might grab me, scoop out my brains, put a candle in my skull and place my candle-lit skull on their window sill. Then the moisturiser smells like the back end of a rancid pigeon. There are limits to my support of good causes, and rubbing rancid pigeon poo smelling cream on my face is it. Good cause, shame about the smell.

Where is the Anthropocene? Many would say it is everywhere, but if you’re going to be pedantic about it, for The Anthropocene to be everywhere in the true sense of the meaning, everywhere, that would mean the Anthropocene is on Mars, Jupiter and even Saturn and it is most definitely not. The Anthropocene is limited to the everywhere on the planet Earth. This is almost definitely due to man’s inability to propel itself beyond the bounds of Earth, with the odd trip to a solitary rock orbiting this planet.

This limitation is probably a good thing. The coming of the Anthropocene will unquestionably put an end to the ambitions of many an egghead to venture into the outer reaches of the cold vacuum of space. The Anthropocene is indubitably in every part of the planet Earth. It’s here, it ain’t going away and it’s only accelerating.

What is the Anthropocene?
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Look at this graph. That is the total length that humans, as we are now, have been scrabbling about on Earth. The wiggly line represents the weather pattern in terms of temperature.

For most of human existence we lived in the Pleistocene Epoch, that is shown on the graph above where the wiggly line is going up and down a lot. Which meant for the poor bastards living during that period is was either “A Scorcha” or Brass Monkeys were searching for their balls.

Obviously, there were times when the weather pattern and temperature was moving from ‘it’s so hot I wanna die’ to ‘it’s so cold I’m freezing to death’ that it passed through a mild temperate period where you could wear your stone age t-shirt, with the slogan ‘The Stone Age Rocks’ scratched on it.

Undeniably humans were able to survive these extreme conditions, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this bollocks now. But it did mean that the nature of human survival was very different. Because of the unpredictable weather patterns humans mostly survived by hunting and gathering food, which meant that they had to be nomadic.

If you look at the right hand side of the picture above you see that the graph suddenly flattens out.

The weather and temperature stabilises. This happened about 12 to 11 thousand years ago. Egg heads call this period the Holocene. It marked a significant shift in human development. At this point humans were able to develop farming and settled communities. The stabilisation of the weather meant you could rely on crops to grow, you could plan for the future. It also meant humans were able to generate surplus. Then some bright spark decided that they’d keep the surplus for themselves and fuck the rest of us.

Zipping forward a few thousand years the industrial revolution happened. The possessors of machinery realised that using fossil fuel, coal, oil, wood and gas gave them greater flexibility in terms of where they put their temples of gloom. Water power used in the early factories was actually quite efficient; the problem arose when they needed more labour and due to the ever so kind landowners, the clearances meant that large numbers of ready workers were pushed into urban areas and fossil fuels gave the factory owner the flexibility of relocating their factory where the workers were.

The reliance on fossil fuel started then. A little flop forward and we find ourselves at another pivotal moment, The Great Acceleration.
The Great Acceleration was warming up in the 1930s but went into full spate after World War Two. Rebuilding after the devastation and horror of a world war gave mechanisation an unprecedented boost. The trough was bulging, but avarice has no bounds, untold riches were not enough, more and more was lusted over. Industrialisation spread to every nook and cranny of the globe. Fossil fuel burning and therefore Earth-warming pollutants were at an alarming peak and rising.

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This graph shows carbon emissions, pollutants that warm the planet. You can see that from around 1850 when industrialisation started emissions they slowly increase until the late 1940s, then there is an unprecedented explosion of burning fossil fuels.

The impact of this gross outpouring of pollutants is that we have entered a new and dangerous epoch. The Anthropocene, an era where the actions of humankind fundamentally changes the world weather system.
The boffins tell us that the average temperature of the Earth should be no higher than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial society.

We are already well above that. To reach that target it would require the whole of humanity to stop using fossil fuels now. Not tomorrow or in 2020, or some other random date but now. Comrades, that is not going to happen. We are fucked.

Us old gets may get away with seeing out our last 20 years of life watching the Earth decline into the abyss. But our children, my daughters, our grandchildren, my granddaughter face a rapid decline of what we have come to see as normal.

We have only ourselves to blame; our own inaction and cowardice, our love of doing what is easy rather that what is necessary has destroyed an entire planet and all that lives on it. In some future, a space-hopping alien race carrying out an archaeological survey of our solar system will come across our barren wasteland of a planet, raped of its beauty and vibrance. They may discover a plaque, left by the last human on Earth, one word scrawled upon it, Greed.

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