We have entered the Anthopocene Era, marked by the turning point when human activities began to make a significant global impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Many place the starting point with the Industrial Revolution, when mass production became the norm, and the machine rose to prominence as evidence of humankind’s ability to dominate nature—without thought or concern to the long term.
We’ve been riding this train for two centuries, quick to ignore evidence to the contrary, lest it cause us any intellectual or physical discomfort. The human impact on the planet is marginalized or excused while the changes to climate are carefully swept under the rug. The increase in extinctions and the decline in biodiversity go unremarked.
As Alduous Huxley observed in Vanity Fair in 1928, “”The colossal material expansion of recent years is destined, in all probability, to be a temporary and transient phenomenon. We are rich because we are living on our capital. The coal, the oil, the phosphates which we are so recklessly using can never be replaced. When the supplies are exhausted, men will have to do without…. It will be felt as a superlative catastrophe.”
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Photo: Thjorsà River #1, Southern Region, Iceland, 2012. © Edward Burtynsky 2016. Courtesy Flowers Gallery, London / Metivier Gallery, Toronto