It’s not often that an aging social movement gets a chance to redefine and reinvigorate itself. Environmentalism has that opportunity now, with the Anthropocene, which National Geographic has dubbed, The Age of Man. What does that mean? As I recently wrote in Slate, the Anthropocene represents a
growing scientific consensus that the contemporary human footprint—our cities, suburban sprawl, dams, agriculture, greenhouse gases, etc.—has so massively transformed the planet as to usher in a new geological epoch.
This sounds like The Age of Man is bad for humanity and the earth. But that’s too simplistic. As The Economist noted in its 2011 cover story:
The advent of the Anthropocene promises more, though, than a scientific nicety or a new way of grabbing the eco-jaded public’s attention. The term “paradigm shift” is bandied around with promiscuous ease. But for the natural sciences to make human activity central to its conception of the world, rather than a distraction, would mark such a shift for real.