GSCI 1000E: The Human Epoch: Living in the Anthropocene

Climate change. Ecosystem collapse. Urbanization. Acidic, anoxic oceans. Altered landscapes. Novel chemicals. Resource shortfalls. What’s the “thing” that holds all these? In physical space, it’s the whole of planet Earth, an oblate spheroid of interacting solid, liquid, and gaseous components. In chronologic time, it’s the Anthropocene Epoch, the newest page on the geological calendar, named for our seemingly limitless power. Comprehending this epoch is causing a paradigm shift in our environmental consciousness, forcing us to re-think our implicit biases about nature and wildness, and offering an optimistic prospect for the human world as part of a very rugged planet.

Limited to 19 students, this discussion-based, seminar-style course will be facilitated by student leaders under the guidance of the instructor.  As a result of this course, students will:

  • Become more effective planetary citizens by putting so-called environmental issues in their proper planetary context. Earth is not fragile. That’s reserved for species, including ours.
  • Discover how intelligence, leading to science, leading to technology, gave humans the power to transform the surface of of a polychrome Earth for good and bad. Green is not the main color of the environment.
  • Understand that the likely launching pad for human intelligence was environmental stress and rapid climate change in Africa’s rift valley. This intelligence will allow us to adapt to an uncertain future.
  • Realize that the future of humanity is being driven by geothermal, climatic, cosmic, and evolutionary processes.