If you are under thirty five, George Seielstad’s Dawn of the Anthropocene predicts a grim story for your dotage and for your children and grandchildren’s lifetimes. If scientists are right, the U.S. may be one state less ultimately — the seas may envelop Florida. Say goodbye to Disney World. Georgia (the state, not the country) may add coastline. If the grand earthquake that has been predicted since I was little hits California, the U.S. may two states short.
I picked up Dawn of the Anthropocene to further my education on climate control, after reading Nature’s Fortune. By way of introduction, Seielstad recounts the dawn of human history. It is interesting and necessary to show that humans are just one aspect in the universal. One small speck in a comos that becomes more known every day. Depending on which version of statistics, humankind has wreaked large reversible damage to staggeringly huge amounts of irreversible damage on the environment.
Dawn of the Anthropocene is a book that deserved to be written, but could have been shorter. Chapters two through the next to the last one could have been consolidated, as much of the material is repeated from chapter to chapter. Another way, which was done well in Nature’s Fortune, would have been to illustrate his points with examples found in everyday life. One read of the current edition of the Economist provides ample number of ideas to supplement the text.
The last chapter is the highlight of the book. Examples of how innovative technology is transforming the upper Midwest farming communities are showcase. What I found peculiar is that this chapter is where Seielstad reveals the origins of Dawn of the Anthropocene. In a way, the book was a hidden agenda. That fact should not tarnish the findings or the examples set out in the chapter.
Seielstad’s central thesis is that humankind must find a way to work collaboratively — and fast. Earth’s natural resources are in a state of extreme disrepair or are dwindling faster than they can be replaced by other alternatives. One is oil; another is the atmosphere impacted by carbon dioxide. Still another is the forests. And then there are earth’s fisheries and the water supply. Working collaboratively is not the only thing Seielstad says we must do. We must also learn to think differently, innovatively. It is a shift of the mind or thinking outside the box until thinking outside the box is the new natural. It is must result in applications that are positive adders for nature or at least neutral.
In keeping with this, Seielstad contends that the developed countries will be forced to recognize the importance of the developing world. Otherwise, the world as we know it will phase itself out as humankind faces extinction or at least severe conditions that put us back to survivalist living. This is the stuff of dystopian novels such as Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn and Waterproof by Amber Garr, and thrillers like Inferno by Dan Brown.
Continued conflict with developing nations or the refusal to find ways to help developing nations end civil war and strife Seielstad predicts will result in the entire world being engulfed in fighting. If he is right, ultimately the planet is doomed. All of this is because the world is becoming increasingly global. Interconnectedness is a way of life. One country’s problems translate over time into issues for their neighbors, nations on the other side of the ocean and finally all over the world. It is akin to Siberia coming into contact with poison ivy and Kansas getting the rash.