Human Ingenuity Can Fix Past Mistakes and Shape the Future

Simon Warrall in National Geographic:

In her new book, The Human Age, Diane Ackerman, best-selling author of The Zookeeper's Wife and A Natural History of the Senses, takes us on a journey into the Anthropocene: the era in which humans have both mastered and degraded the natural world. Ranging across the globe, she shows how our unique talent for self-awareness and our technological prowess can help us overcome today's global challenges. Speaking a few days before what may be the largest ever climate change demonstration, in New York, she talked about the Frozen Ark, where the DNA of vanishing species is being collected, introduced us to an orangutan with an iPad and a group of Alaskan Inuits threatened by rising sea levels, and expressed her optimism about the future.

Book-talk-human-age-01_83925_600x450You call our era the Anthropocene age. Can you explain?

Human beings have been on the planet for about 200,000 years, but if you think about it, most of the wonders we identify with contemporary life came about in the past 200 years. And in the past 20 years, they've been advancing at a mind-boggling pace. We've now changed the course of rivers, we've changed the outline of continents, we've created giant megacities, and we've even played golf on the moon. We've so dominated our landscape that the coalition of scientists believes we have to change the name of the era in which we're living. We're in the Holocene, a geologic era like the Jurassic for the dinosaurs. But [scientists would] like to change it to something that conveys more of our imprint on the planet, the Anthropocene, which translates as the human age. And I think it's a very good idea.

More here.