Many still think that Earth is just too big and mighty to be changed permanently by humans. When Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer proposed to introduce a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, they encountered wide-spread disbelief that us little, recently-evolved creatures could act on the longest, deepest time-scale available to describe our planet. While hiking in the Alps recently, in an area called the Karwendel mountains, I certainly could relate to the feeling of a nature that is far beyond human action. The excavator says it all. Look at how tiny it is compared to those limestone mountains, former sea floors lifted up to the sky by plate tectonics over millions of years, just to crumble, erode and turn into vast plains in the far future.
So is the Anthropocene idea perhaps a symptom of human hubris, a blatant exaggeration of our effects, an object of future derision? Well, think again. The average European now extracts, moves, consumes and disposes of 15 tons of material per year, from smartphone metals to collectively used concrete. So each of us acts like a bio-excavator digging into Earth. Multiply this excavator by 10 billion, as most humans strive to attain a Western lifestyle. To the material turn-over add climate change, the creation of synthetic organisms and the extinction of wild ones, the growth of human settlements to half the size of Australia within this century, massive chemical changes to the oceans…No, we are not small. We are about to move mountains, literally.
Dutch illustrator Max Philippi has invented an online world that may help to save the real one. State of Scarcity explores interesting ideas and inventions, in part inspired by Buckminster Fuller, which Philippi hopes will serve as models for real life applications.
Opening the interactive application we enter Wrighton, a fictitious town set in a not-so-distant future, and based on concepts like reuse, recycling and de-cultivation. In this society people do everything “right” in a social and ecological sense by combining old and new nature. Philippi explains how: Read more »
What would the world look like if Wi-Fi waves were visible? American artist Nickolay Lamm gives us the answer by visualizing an idealized map of Wi-Fi data transmission over Washington, DC.
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Once a vast carpet of healthy vegetation, the Amazon rain forest is changing rapidly. This color-coded satellite image of Bolivia shows dramatic deforestation in the Amazon Basin. Loggers have cut paths into the forest, while ranchers have cleared large blocks for their herds. Fanning out from many of these clear-cut areas are settlements built in radial arrangements of fields and farms. Healthy vegetation appears bright red. This image was taken on August 1, 2000. We imagine the landscape has changed significantly in the last 13 years.
Could this be my external hard disk? By combining smoke, moisture and dramatic lighting, Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde created this cloud, an extremely temporary work.
If Mohammed won’t go to the sea, the sea must come to Mohammed! Typically scuba diving involves a journey to some exotic and expensive destination, but at the Sea Life Aquarium, located in a shopping center in Manchester, you can plunge in an underwater experience for just £60, without taking diving lessons and travelling halfway around the world. Read more »
A ship stuck on the top of a rock? No, it’s not a cruise driven by Captain Schettino. It’s the Sun Cruise Resort, a bizarre hotel in South Korea designed and built by a shipyard to emulate the experience of cruising, without feeling seasick.
Imagine bumping into a cola dispenser after a hike in the pristine Canadian forests for three days. Would you believe your eyes? Must be a modern Fata Morgana.
It happened to Dennis van Tilburg, who sent us this peculiar image of the week. The biomimic-marketing on the can dispenser only adds peculiar points to the scene. We are living in postcard nature.
What is nature? And who or what has a say in this? Are human beings the only ones who decide, or do plants, animals, bacteria, atmospheres, things and computers play a role as well? Yes Naturally puts anthropocentrism – centralizing the human position above all or interpreting reality exclusively in terms of human standards – in perspective. Is our arrogant placing of ourselves above all other agents in the world really justified? Is the DNA of a multicellular organism such as ourselves really so different from that of a virus? Our digestive tract looks remarkably like that of a sea squirt, which belongs to the most primitive of tunicates that have been around for more than 500 million years. And we have more in common with plants than we may on the surface suspect. Mitochondria are the energy producers of plants and animals: they are offspring of bacteria that lived in intracellular symbiosis with their hosts in an early evolutionary stage. Interconnectedness and interdependence are in fact the measure of all things.
Typically the impact of humanity on plant life is not always positive: Deforestation, decrease of diversity, soil pollution. Doom and gloom are all around. Hence, our delight to learn there are also people dedicating their time and energy to the expansion of plant life. Surely if they do it in such remarkable ways.
Astrobiologist Dr. Louisa Preston and Designer Vanessa Harden propose to build a garden on Mars. Thats not easy. One would need a gardening robot, fitted plant species and some kind of dome structure for the plants to grow in. These two young women now started a kickstarter campaign to realize their project.
Arguably, we owe it to our fellow carbon bases plant species, to employ our space rockets to their benefit, helping them to inhabit new worlds. Additionally, the astro plants may also provide human space travelers in their nutritious needs.
Go to the kickstarter campaign.
This is the first in a 10-part series where renowned journalist and biologist Christian Schwägerl discusses the many ramifications of the concept of the “Anthropocene”.
Paul Crutzen’s idea of a dawning geological epoch shaped by us humans – the Anthropocene – is going viral. Since I presented it at the Next Nature Power Show in 2011, the top guys at the United Nations have endorsed the concept. A group of smart scientists led by Jan Zalasiewicz of Leicester University announced that, by 2017, they will reach a verdict of whether our current epoch will be officially re-named. Many initiatives have started exploring this new way of thinking about humanity’s place in and on Earth. Here our “ride into the Anthropocene” continues. I want take you to 10 places where the human mind, “nature” and technology fuse in this yet unexplored newness.
Anthropologist Setha Low, one of the first to study the subject, defines gated community as “residential developments surrounded by walls, [and] fences” with a “structured entrance”; or, as estate agents nicely put it, exclusive property that sums- for those who can afford it- the much needed three P’s: privacy, protection and prestige.
Known as “Cerradas” in Mexico, “condomínios fechados” in Brasil or more eloquently as security estates in post-apartheid South Africa, the concept of a community defending itself from outside violence is, in a way, an ancient practice (think of Medieval fortress or, even before, walled Romans settlements). At first very popular in The States, where the first “self-contained suburban utopias,” sprung around 1850, gated communities are since the last decade a cross continental rising trend.
Every cloud you see is an airplane. Peculiar image of the week.
Across Paris, bees and their keepers have been taking advantage of the city’s pesticide-free parks, gardens and flowerbeds to produce pricey honey. The otherwise unused rooftops of many Parisian landmarks are now home to hundreds of thousands of bees. The exclusivity of the real estate shows in the cost: The world’s most expensive honey – E 15 for 150 grams – comes from the roof of Palais Garnier, the city’s grand opera house.
Image: A keeper fumigates the hives atop Saint-Denis. Story via Skyscraper City. Thanks to Wessel de Jong for the tip.
In Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, the cordgrass salt marshes have been mysteriously dying off for decades. Now, some of the marsh is just as mysteriously beginning to grow back. This die-off and regrowth has finally been traced back to two little crabs and, of course, to human error.
The internet like a black hole that sucks up everything and metamorphoses landscapes, animals, and memories into pixels. Google recently created a map and street view of a small city in Japan, Namie, which is in the nuclear exclusion zone from the 2011 Tohuko Earthquake. Everyone, including the earthquake victims, can now travel to Namie, which remains only as a memory in the digital cloud. What determines our image of “nature” is not only National Geographic and BBC documentaries, but also Google street view.