June 8, 2012 by SCNCC
The above film charts the dawning of the Anthropocene epoch, or “the recent age of man”. Atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term Anthropocene to describe the profound impact that humanity has had on the earth’s ecosystems since the Industrial Revolution.
The film succinctly outlines humanity’s predicament and its potential, while touching on the contradictions of global capitalism. As the narrator explains:
In a single lifetime the wellbeing of millions has improved beyond measure. Health, wealth, security, longevity. Never have so many had so much. Yet one billion are malnourished….
We move more sediment and rock annually than all natural processes, such as erosion and rivers. We manage three quarters of all land outside the ice sheets. Greenhouse gas levels this high have not been seen for over one million years. Temperatures are increasing. We have made a hole in the ozone layer. We are losing biodiversity.
Many of the world’s deltas are sinking due to damming, mining and other causes. Sea level is rising. Ocean acidification is a real threat. We are altering Earth’s natural cycles…
This relentless pressure on our planet risks unprecedented destabilization.
But our creativity, energy and industry offer hope. We have shaped our past. We are shaping our present. We can shape our future.
While the film exposes what we are up against, it doesn’t mention who we are up against. It would perhaps be more fitting to use the term “corpocene” or “financocene” to describe our current epoch, if we are to pinpoint the factors impacting the biosphere today. These are social factors, which have everything to do with wealth and power, and how it is distributed.
After all, it is a small portion of humanity, the 1 percent, that owns the coal mines, the drilling rigs, the pipelines, the lumberyards, the nuclear reactors and the banks. These are the people who–in the pursuit of profit–have put our planet and its inhabitants in the precarious position we currently find ourselves.
If you and I are to truly be a “part of this story” as the narrator tells us we are, we will have to pressure governments and corporations to listen to science and address this current biospheric crisis. Renewable technologies exist now that can be utilized to move us off of fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change. They are not being implemented because of the power and influence of energy companies, for whom oil, gas and coal are highly profitable commodities.
Humanity can live in accordance with nature but a socio-economic system predicated on endless growth and competition, dictated by the laws of capital, cannot. It is up to us to build a social movement based on our collective power as workers, students, farmers, intellectuals–as the 99 percent–to create a rival power to those destroying our planet and threatening human life on earth. Ultimately we will need a new system, one that is democratic and prioritizes people and planet over profit.