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"Welcome to the Anthropocene"
Key Symposium message becomes top story in The Economist.
The Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability recently concluded in their Stockholm MemorandumPDF (pdf, 5 MB) that the planet has entered a new geological age, the Anthropocene.

"We are the first generation with the insight of the new global risks facing humanity, that people and societies are the biggest drivers of global change," was one of the key messages coming out of the Symposium.

In the latest edition of The Economist, it has been placed as the top story of the week.

"For humans to be intimately involved in many interconnected processes at a planetary scale carries huge risks. But it is possible to add to the planet's resilience, often through simple and piecemeal actions, if they are well thought through. And one of the messages of the Anthropocene is that piecemeal actions can quickly add up to planetary change," the magazine states in their Leader.

Slipping into a new state
Their main article draws upon some of the key messages from the Executive SummaryPDF (pdf, 2.3 MB) of the Symposium Working Papers and highlights the science behind the planetary boundaries concept:

"To think of deliberately interfering in the Earth system will undoubtedly be alarming to some. But so will an Anthropocene deprived of such deliberation. A way to try and split the difference has been propounded by a group of Earth-system scientists inspired by (and including) Dr Crutzen under the banner of “planetary boundaries". The planetary-boundaries group, which published a sort of manifesto in 2009, argues for increased restraint and, where necessary, direct intervention aimed at bringing all sorts of things in the Earth system, from the alkalinity of the oceans to the rate of phosphate run-off from the land, close to the conditions pertaining in the Holocene. Carbon-dioxide levels, the researchers recommend, should be brought back from whatever they peak at to a level a little higher than the Holocene's and a little lower than today's. The idea behind this precautionary approach is not simply that things were good the way they were. It is that the further the Earth system gets from the stable conditions of the Holocene, the more likely it is to slip into a whole new state and change itself yet further," the article states.

Read the entire article here.

See videos from key parts of the Symposium here

Sturle Hauge Simonsen
Date: 2011-05-31