Sifting through the Anthropocene: science and discourse in a human made epoch

James Syvitski
March 28, 2017 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm


Haro Room, Cadboro Commons Building, UVic
3800 Finnerty Rd
Victoria , BC

Human activity is leaving such a pervasive and persistent signature on the Earth—from the combustion of fossil fuels to the dropping of nuclear weapons to even the global spread of the domestic chicken—that we may have caused the planet to enter a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Taken together, these markers render the Anthropocene stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene and earlier epochs. These traces of human activity will last for millions of years.

Though quite new, the Anthropocene concept has rapidly leapt the bounds of earth-systems science and emerged as a new paradigm for understanding our place in the world by social scientists, humanities scholars, politicians, activists, journalists, educators and artists.  This discourse has thrown up a range of thorny questions. When did the Anthropocene begin? What are the implications for science and policy? Could there be a “good Anthropocene”?

In this talk, geologist James Syvitski aims to explore these prickly topics. He will consider the significance of the Anthropocene and its complex dynamic structures, emergent phenomena and unintended consequences; how these come at us at a great many different scales while weaving together biophysical constraints and social, economic and political conditions. The talk will also investigate how we can align global governance with stewardship, ultimately deciding our future as a civilisation.

This is a free public event, please register to save your seat. Refreshments will be provided. 


Professor James (Jai) Syvitski holds faculty appointments in Geological Sciences, Applied Mathematics, Atmosphere & Ocean Sciences, Hydrological Sciences, and Geophysics at the University of Colorado. He is Executive Director of CSDMS— the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System, an international effort to develop, support, and disseminate integrated software modules to the broader Geoscience community. 
Jai has previously served as Director of INSTAAR – a University of Colorado Earth and Environmental Systems Institute and as Chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. Jai’s recent awards include the 2009 Royal Society of Canada, Huntsman Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Marine Science; Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2010, the 2016 SEPM Francis P Shepard Medal for outstanding contribution to Marine Geology, and an Honorary Doctor of Science, from Newcastle University.