On Earth, the only thing that's constant is change. Our planet has gone through some dramatic shifts over its roughly 4.6-billion-year lifetime, from a blazing ball of molten rock to a "snowball" planet that would make a tauntaun feel right at home, and on to a relatively temperate world dominated by humans. Evidence for each chapter in Earth's story is contained in the rocks beneath our feet and the ice covering the Poles, and it tells the tale of a planet shaped by a variety of natural events.
But now, for the first time in the planet's history, an intelligent force is causing such rapid and dramatic change that it is leaving its own unique footprint in the geologic record.
This is the Anthropocene, and it will define the future for the current generation of humans.
At Stanford University in California, a team of researchers and students created the Generation Anthropocene podcast to "capture the conversations about this new age." Each of their more than 80 episodes highlights thought-provoking stories from around the world that explore the scientific and cultural changes we face in the Age of Humans, featuring leading thinkers and innovators at the front lines of Earth science, history and philosophy. Here, in this exclusive clip, the Generation Anthropocene team weaves together voices from previous episodes to lay out how we define the Anthropocene and what it means for the current generation:
As part of the Smithsonian.com Anthropocene initiative, we'll be bringing you new Generation Anthropocene episodes—as well as highlighting the best stories from the archives—in the coming weeks, starting tomorrow with a deep dive into the ways the messy relationship between humans and geography has shaped our past and is shaping the planet's future.
Here, in no particular order, are the top five Generation Anthropocene episodes that have aired so far. Check back each week for more compelling tales of how humans are interacting with our home planet.
1. Earth’s Tipping Points & Abrupt Climate Change (Guest: Richard Alley)
2. Hanging Out in a Rambunctious Garden (Guest: Emma Marris)
3. A Cosmic Twin Study (Guest: David Grinspoon)
4. Yogurt & the Apocalypse: The Narratives of Environmentalism (Guests: Ursula Heise)
5. Tracing Networks of Disease (Guest: James Holland Jones)