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New approaches to address the Anthropocene risk

Earth's atmosphere

23 Jul 2019

Researchers have suggested a new approach to tackling the environmental risks of the Anthropocene, which involves identifying ways to integrate the natural and social sciences to unravel factors that might impede or propel positive transformations towards the Earth’s future.
Tiffany Hionas

Researchers from Colorado State University (CSU), US, are calling for new ways to understand the environmental risks in the Anthropocene – the theory that the Earth is entering a new epoch of geological history, driven by the acts of humankind.

Patrick Keys, a research scientist from the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU, says that ‘the Anthropocene is a time of rapid global change – socially, environmentally, and geophysically,’ adding that ‘it's becoming clear that a more holistic perspective, including social history, power relations, and environmental ethics may be important components of Anthropocene risks.’

Keys reinforces the multitude of human impacts which have altered the Earth’s geological history by exemplifying the role of power relations and policy-making in driving drought and climate change in Syria. For example, government agricultural policies have led to an overreliance on rain, leading to desperate farmers rendering the rest of the country’s groundwater reserves dry.

We cannot ignore the social and political economic factors ascribing to an event which is caused by the environment, he says.

This point of view stems from Guidance for Resilience in the Anthropocene: Investments for Development (GRAID), where, through various case studies, have highlighted why it is becoming essential for people studying environmental risks to take a broader approach in interpreting the scale of impacts, the soci-cultural factors and the geopolitical structures which play a strong role in shaping the Earth’s future.

Keys continues, ‘as the Anthropocene unfolds, navigating new and emerging risks will require considering changes that happen over years, decades, centuries, or even millennia’ and ‘in this increasingly interconnected and accelerating world, it's on us to really educate ourselves about how to interact intelligently and meaningfully to work toward a more sustainable world.’

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