The Anthropocene Epoch

Stop Trying to Save the Planet is an interesting op-ed by Erle Ellis Ph.D., the director of the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology.

“[Nature] was gone before you were born, before your parents were born, before the pilgrims arrived, before the pyramids were built. You are living on a used planet…We now live in the Anthropocene–a geological epoch in which [Earth has been] shaped primarily by human forces.

The thesis reminds me of one of E.O. Wilson’s statement that (paraphrasing) humans have tipped everything out of balance since they emigrated from a particular plain in Africa.

You can find Ellis’s op-ed is on Wired Science.

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Anthropogenic Deforestation

Anthropogenic (caused by humans) deforestation is the conversion of land use from forest to another designation. Logging, commercial or otherwise, doesn’t equal deforestation. It is what the land becomes that is the issue. Often, the conversion is to an agricultural use, e.g., the conversion of Amazonian rainforest to soy, vineyards, or rangeland.

Deforestation, what is it?

As I’ve noted in “What is Deforestation?“, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as the, “conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover below the 10% threshold … Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation.” Source – On Definitions of Forest and Forest Change

This used to be oak woodland prior to its conversion to vineyard.

Hideous, isn’t it?

Our ecological footprint

Wherever we build settlements, grow food, hunt food, gather food, congregate or socialize; we change the area from what it was. Sometimes we change the place a little. Sometimes we change the place a great deal. With our current system, we change environments in places we don’t personally touch.

It’s a balancing act

Nature is dynamic. Nature requires change while also trying to maintain equilibrium. The question is always one of balance. I prefer forest but as a human being I also need to live, eat, procreate, and what I do will affect the earth. What we can do as humans is to gather data–facts–about the external costs of our choices. Gather facts from peer-reviewed journals, not blogs (especially those that do not list sources or their sources are biased), not environmental or industry (both skew facts to their own ends).

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