Human Nature: the Anthropocene

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Human Nature: the Anthropocene

This essay will examine the concept of the Anthropocene and its implications for understanding human nature, particularly in the context of environmental impact and sustainability. More free essay examples are accessible at PapersOwl about Earth.

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The anthropogenic impact on the environment is one of the main contributors to the ecological crisis. In “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?,” Steffen et al., claim that human evolution from hunter-gatherers to a global geophysical force have reached peak “Great Acceleration,” of the degradation of the environment. The authors divide the environmental changes into three different components. The first component is the collection of anthropogenic or “human-driven” changes. The second component is the by-product of the biological fabric of Earth.

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The third component is described as the “stocks and flows of major elements in the planetary machine.” Steffen et al., believe that we are currently at the “tipping point in the evolution of the Anthropocene.” Description of claim The authors provide supporting data for their claim in the form of three stages of the Anthropocene.

The first stage begins with the onset of the industrial era, around the 1700’s, and its effects on the atmosphere. Before the use of fossil fuels, renewable resources like wind and hydropower were used to fuel ingenuity. During the 1700’s, humans were still degrading the environment with their harvesting of trees, but population numbers were low enough that they were unable to trigger the change from the Holocene to the Anthropocene. Steffen et al., mention multiple hypotheses as to why England transitioned from traditional and renewable resources to coal as the beginning of the second stage of the Anthropocene. One hypothesis is the degradation of forests making wood burning furnaces less efficient. Others attribute the shift to coal to socioeconomic changes, the installation of banks, a legal system, politics and the market culture. The socioeconomic changes in the 1820’s resulted in a population boom from 1 billion to over 7.2 billion today1. The authors note that in the 1800’s, earth had only 10% of its surface degraded and it rose to approximately 30% by the 1950’s. The authors also state the atmospheric CO2, CH4 and N2O have risen well above the pre-industrial era. Stage three of the Anthropocene is in the present. Humans have an abundance of scientific data to support the urgency to stop the degradation of the environment.

In this third phase, humans must now use their technological ingenuity to propel us past the industrial/coal age before all the environmental non-renewable resources go extinct. Articulating the importance of the claim Humans are living in a time where the repercussions of their ancestors’ actions, as well as their own actions, are becoming increasingly evident. Due to the population increasing at an exponential rate on a yearly basis since the pre-industrial revolution, the Earth’s finite resources are being degraded at an exponentially faster rate than ever before. Fresh water supplies are being poisoned by agriculture runoff, dammed for hydropower, as well as being depleting. Less rain during rain-seasons is causing extreme drought. Entire ecosystems are crashing in on themselves due to the decrease in abundance of food sources. Biodiversity is becoming scarce. Seasonal storms are increasing in intensity. Sea-level is rising at an unprecedented rate. Air pollution is causing asthma, allergies, and multiple types of cancers. Due to the depletion of the ozone and the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gasses, summers are getting hotter and lasting longer. Winters are also increasing in intensities. When studying carbon levels in ice cores from millions of years ago, scientists have found that there have been periods of high levels of greenhouse gas concentration and environmental die-off in the past.

These greenhouse gas measurements have never been as high as they are today. There is no precedent as to what repercussions future generations will have to endure. Evaluation of author’s case for the claim There is an abundance of scientific data that supports the author’s claim. I too think that we are currently in the Anthropocene. Scientists have studied ice cores to investigate the atmospheric composition millions of years ago. The ice cores are a type of record that show what certain levels of greenhouse gasses do to the flora and fauna2. The scientists determined that humans can continue to exist on earth if they go back to Holocene levels of consumption. With technology comes a multitude of scientific theories to reduce the human impact on the environment some radical and others, feasible.

To reverse the steep downward trend our environment is headed in, I believe solutions need to be both, radical and feasible to take on the issue and slow it down before it is too late. Summarizing findings, suggesting limitations and/or future directions The authors determined that humans are degrading the environment at a faster rate than the normal or natural bio cycles ever did. There is historic evidence and scientific data indicating humans evolving from hunter-gatherers into commercial consumers through the industrial revolution, has expedited the decline of the biosphere. The earth has gone from an environmental induced climate change to a human induced one. In 1855 Chief Seattle spoke of the degradation of the environment stating, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connected.” If humans do not begin to aggressively reduce their emissions and reduce their consumption of non-renewable resources, the earth will become a less hospitable place for humans to exist.


[1] “World population – right now,” The World Counts. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 10-Oct-2018].

[2] G. Skaarup, “Ice cores reveal fluctuations in the Earth’s greenhouse gases,” 14-May-2008. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 10-Oct-2018]. [3] P. P. Leite, “The antropocene V Holoceno e Antropoceno,” Global Heritages.

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Human Nature: The Anthropocene. (2020, Mar 22). Retrieved from