Humanity’s increasingly permanent mark on the planet has spurred a new geological age in earth’s history: the Anthropocene. Learn how we got to this point — and what our footprint means to the future of the planet.
EMMA MARRIS Nature is everywhere — we just need to learn to see it
How do you define “nature?” If we define it as that which is untouched by humans, then we won’t have any left, says environmental writer Emma Marris. She urges us to consider a new definition of nature — one that includes not only pristine wilderness but also the untended patches of plants growing in urban spaces — and encourages us to bring our children out to touch and tinker with it, so that one day they might love and protect it.
STEWART BRAND 4 environmental ‘heresies’
The man who helped usher in the environmental movement in the 1960s and ’70s has been rethinking his positions on cities, nuclear power, genetic modification and geo-engineering. This talk at the US State Department is a foretaste of his major new book, sure to provoke widespread debate.
GEORGE MONBIOT For more wonder, rewild the world
Wolves were once native to the US’ Yellowstone National Park — until hunting wiped them out. But when, in 1995, the wolves began to come back (thanks to an aggressive management program), something interesting happened: the rest of the park began to find a new, more healthful balance. In a bold thought experiment, George Monbiot imagines a wilder world in which humans work to restore the complex, lost natural food chains that once surrounded us.
JOHAN ROCKSTRÖM Let the environment guide our development
Human growth has strained the earth’s resources, but as Johan Rockström reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine “planetary boundaries” that can guide us in protecting our planet’s many overlapping ecosystems.
LORD NICHOLAS STERN The State of the Climate – And What We Might Do About It
How can we begin to address the global, insidious problem of climate change — a problem that’s too big for any one country to solve? Economist Nicholas Stern lays out a plan, presented to the UN’s Climate Summit in 2014, showing how the world’s countries can work together on climate. It’s a big vision for cooperation, with a payoff that goes far beyond averting disaster. He asks: How can we use this crisis to spur better lives for all?
PETER WARDA theory of Earth’s mass extinctions
Asteroid strikes get all the coverage, but “Medea Hypothesis” author Peter Ward argues that most of Earth’s mass extinctions were caused by lowly bacteria. The culprit, a poison called hydrogen sulfide, may have an interesting application in medicine.
KENNETH LACOVARA Hunting for dinosaurs showed me our place in the universe
What happens when you discover a dinosaur? Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara details his unearthing of Dreadnoughtus — a 77-million-year-old sauropod that was as tall as a two-story house and as heavy as a jumbo jet — and considers how amazingly improbable it is that a tiny mammal living in the cracks of the dinosaur world could evolve into a sentient being capable of understanding these magnificent creatures. Join him in a celebration of the Earth’s geological history and contemplate our place in deep time.
MARTIN REES Can we prevent the end of the world?
A post-apocalyptic Earth, emptied of humans, seems like the stuff of science fiction TV and movies. But in this short, surprising talk, Lord Martin Rees asks us to think about our real existential risks — natural and human-made threats that could wipe out humanity. As a concerned member of the human race, he asks: What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?