Ecocentric

Visualizing the Anthropocene

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Today about 360,000 new people, give or take a few thousand, will enter the world. Significantly fewer than that will shuffle off it, which is why we’re adding about 200,000 people a day. Global population has already passed 7 billion, and we’re well on our way to 9 billion or more by the middle of the century. Humans live—and for the most part thrive—in every corner and climate in the world.

But population is just the most obvious way we’ve altered the planet. As I wrote for TIME—paper edition—recently, we’ve stamped Earth with our presence:

For a species that has been around for less than 1% of 1% of the earth’s 4.5 billion-year history, Homo sapiens has certainly put its stamp on the place. Humans have had a direct impact on more than three-quarters of the ice-free land on earth. Almost 90% of the world’s plant activity now takes place in ecosystems where people play a significant role. We’ve stripped the original forests from much of North America and Europe and helped push tens of thousands of species into extinction. Even in the vast oceans, among the few areas of the planet uninhabited by humans, our presence has been felt thanks to overfishing and marine pollution. Through artificial fertilizers–which have dramatically increased food production and, with it, human population–we’ve transformed huge amounts of nitrogen from an inert gas in our atmosphere into an active ingredient in our soil, the runoff from which has created massive aquatic dead zones in coastal areas. And all the CO2 that the 7 billion-plus humans on earth emit is rapidly changing the climate–and altering the very nature of the planet.

That’s why we live in what’s now called the Anthropocene, or the age of man. But words only go so far. A new video by Globaia, an organization dedicated to explaining “big history,” shows the development of the Anthropocene as it happened over the past 200 years ago. (Hat tip to Morgan Clendaniel at Fast Company, for posting first on this video.) Click below to see human beings transform the Earth—for better and for worse:

(MORE: Anthropocene: Why You Should Get Used to the Age of Man)

 

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