Although humans arrived only recently in Earth’s timeline, we as a species are driving major changes to the planet’s structure and ecosystems. Even now, the basic requirements for our own lives - air, water, shelter, food, nature, and culture - are rapidly transforming the planet as billions of people deplete our natural resources. These changes have become so noticeable on a global scale that scientists believe we are living in a new chapter in Earth’s story: the Anthropocene, or Age of Humans. This talk, based on the book of the same title, will contextualize the Anthropocene by looking at the Complexity of Nature and how interactions among species are being impacted by various human effects on Earth. The speaker will discuss the environmental and biological systems that have been changed and affected; the causes of the Anthropocene, such as agricultural spread, pollution, fossil fuels, and urbanization; how societies are responding and adapting to these changes; how these changes have been represented in art and literature; and finally, it will offer a look toward the future of our environment and our own lives.
W. John Kress, a distinguished scientist and curator of botany at the National Museum of Natural History, formerly served at the Smithsonian as the Grand Challenges Consortia’s director of science and the interim undersecretary for science. Trained in evolutionary biology, systematics, and ecology, he is also the author of The Weeping Goldsmith: Discoveries in the Secret Land of Myanmar.