The metabolism of a human-dominated planet


Oxford Martin School

Streamed live on Jan 22, 2015

We live in a new epoch, the Anthropocene, the Age of Us, of which climate change is just one aspect. The defining feature of this age is that sum of human activity (how many we are and what we are doing) has become large compared to the natural processes of the biosphere. The atmospheric waste products of our activity being the main driver of climate change. How can we measure how “large” we are, and how has our impact on the planet varied throughout human history?

Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science, will examine this question through the concept of social metabolism, how much energy we use to support our lifestyles, compared to the metabolism of the biosphere. With this concept in hand, we will travel from a world full of hunter gatherers after the end of the last Ice Age, through the dawn of farming, the Roman Empire, the industrial revolution and finally look at prospects for the 21st century. On the way we’ll examine whether our cities behave like termite colonies, and whether people walk faster in London than in Oxford. And you’ll find out how you are like King Kong…

Join in on twitter with #2015climate

Oxford Martin School,
University of Oxford
www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk

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