The Anthropocene: a primer for geographers
Science continuously changes our world through its discoveries, concepts and inventions. This article introduces one of contemporary science's 'hottest' ideas: namely, the proposition that the geological epoch during which Homo sapiens have flourished (the Holocene) is coming to an end.(1) A number of environmental researchers spanning several disciplines believe that modern humans now rival those great forces of nature previously thought immune to human influence. They suggest we are entering (or have possibly entered) the Anthropocene'. This is the first geological epoch where a step-change in Earth surface conditions has been caused, albeit unintentionally, by people's combined activities. The Anthropocence concept thus includes, but also transcends, the idea of anthropogenic climate change. As this article will show, although geographers are not its principal architects, the concept is enormously relevant to them. However, it should not be accepted uncritically. Both teachers and students need to appreciate the concept's origins, strengths and weaknesses. In what follows, I present a comprehensive, but succinct, survey of the Anthropocene proposition. I then point to the different ways it might be germane to geography looking ahead.