ANTHROPOCENE: DOMESTICATION OF EARTH
Karl Arnold Belser
20 June 2016
| I read the book Domesticated:
Evolution in a Man--Made World
by Richard Francis, and I finally realized how human beings have
totally dominated the earth, especially in the last 500 years with the
aid of science.
The book Domesticated points out that a majority of the animals on Earth today have been tamed an domesticated by human hands. This domestication happened predominantly in Asia Minor starting tens of thousands of years ago with the onset of the agricultural revolution. Jared Diamond gives a good description in his book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.
The indigenous peoples of the Americas domesticated plants by human selection as Charles Man points out in his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. Today, the human race depends to a large degree on these plants from the Americas such as corn, potatoes, squash, and tomatoes.
The advent of global warming, ocean acidification, the sixth extinction and scarcity of many resources such as potable water appear to be ample evidence that the Earth has entered the Anthropocene. What might this mean for an uncertain future?
If one looks at the state of the Earth from twenty thousand feet, that is, in the Big Picture, there are a huge number of people, approaching eight billion, and there is a highly evolved and complicated society that keeps all of these people alive. The complexity and dependence on people working together harmoniously makes the system fragile.
For example, Ted Koppel's book Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath discusses the extreme dependency that the United States has on electricity. Koppel points out that a cyberattack or an electromagnetic pulse (by-product of a nuclear explosion) could cripple the United States for months, which might result in the death of ninety percent of the country's population. This is extreme fragility, and it is only one example. The New York Magazine published a fantasy story Envisioning the Hack That could Take Down New York City. This story illustrates just how many vulnerabilities current society has..
There are so many of these fragile situations that it appears to be impossible to prepare for all of them. The United States government, according to Koppel's book, understands the risks and has decided to cross each bridge (crisis) as it comes. This in turn means that there is a high likelihood that many people will loose their lives, or at the minimum be reduced to a very low subsistence.
My conclusion, is that I can prepare for minor threats with emergency supplies that would allow me and my family to live through a severe transient of maybe weeks. However, I accept that I will probably die if a really serious event occurs.
I further conclude that the fate of the Earth is now in the hands of imperfect human beings. Hence, a clear view of the future is impossible. So my philosophy of living my life such that if I died tomorrow I would consider my life well spent is a good attitude.
Last updated June 25, 2016
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