Summary: In sparkling electric blue, this narrated visualization illustrates the impact humans have had on the Earth's ecosystems from the time of the industrial revolution to the present. Referring to a new geological epoch, the narrator boldly announces, "Welcome to the anthropocene." The anthropocene is marked by the decisive role humans now play in shaping the state, dynamics and future of the Earth system. Among other indicators, scientists point out that anthropogenic processes now account for more sediment transport than natural processes, such as the erosion from rivers. Humans have also measurably altered the composition of the atmosphere, oceans, and soils, as well as the cycles associated with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. The more than seven billion of us who currently reside on the planet now breath a chemically altered atmosphere of our own making, and we are witnessing the spread of oceanic dead zones. From a sociological standpoint, the adjective "anthropogenic," which simply denotes something that is produced by humans, is imprecise. It is not the mere presence of billions of homo sapiens which has altered the Earth's systems; rather, it is the way homo sapiens interact with the Earth's systems—our social processes. The clip works well as a way to enter into a discussion about environmental sociology. Specifically, one could easily draw on it to highlight the tension between understanding how changes in the environment get framed as problems by scientists, media, and other social actors, and how certain environmental changes have a real ontological status, irrespective of that framing.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist