Back in 2000, scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer challenged the world to face up to the transformation of the planet by human activity, arguing that we now live in a new geological epoch. They traced the start of the new epoch to the Industrial Revolution and called it the Anthropocene, or new era of man, in which our activity has determined the geological future of our planet.
However, it is not ‘human activity’ per se that is responsible for the these ecological changes; after all, human activity before the Industrial Revolution did not have anything like the impact it had once the market economy was in full swing. Neither is it the much-talked about ‘population explosion.’ As Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland so succinctly put it: ‘Even with a population of seven billion, Homo sapiens is not an entirely novel force. But human systems are’. It is ‘human systems’ that change the environment, and the overriding human system of the Anthropocene is the market economy.