Smithsonian takes a unique look at how the 'age of man' has created an age of change

October 04, 2012

The world is changing at a rapid pace. Scientists have documented significant changes during the last century in climate, land-use and biodiversity that are unprecedented over the last thousand years. These changes are also occurring at a time of rapid social, economic, political, and technological transformation. In order to address the arrival and the impact of this phenomenon through the lenses of science, society and culture, the Smithsonian is hosting a unique symposium: The Anthropocene: Planet Earth in the Age of Humans.

A consensus has been reached by scientists that the tremendous scope of transformations now occurring on the Earth, with profound effects on plants, animals and natural habitats is primarily the result of human activities. Geologists have proposed the term Anthropocene, or the "Age of Man," for this new period in the history of the planet.

"Although the Earth and life on it have always been characterized by change, the current rate and scale of these changes may be unparalleled by any time in the past since the beginning of human civilizations," said John Kress, director for the Smithsonian's Consortia for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet. "We created this symposium to harness the Smithsonian's expertise in the fields of science, culture, history and art, and have invited the public to participate to help us better understand and confront the magnitude of the arrival of the Anthropocene in our world."

The primary talks of the symposium will address issues of global change from the perspectives of history, art, culture, philosophy, economics, and science. Speakers include Charles Mann, Richard Alley, Chris Jordan, Sabine O'Hara, and Timothy Wirth. The interdisciplinary panels of scholars that follow each presentation are meant to foster a wide-ranging discussion of the issues. The public are invited to attend and participate in the discussions. A full event program, including abstracts and bio sketches, can be downloaded from our website: http://www.si.edu/consortia
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Smithsonian

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