Human civilization has now irrevocably altered basic Earth systems. Two centuries of industrialisation and economic globalization based upon the rapacious exploitation of fossil fuels, and the destruction of forests, lands, oceans and cultures has disrupted the Earth’s atmosphere and ice caps and devastated the biosphere. This has occurred at such a scale and pace that Earth scientists argue we are leaving the Holocene geological epoch and entering the more volatile ‘Anthropocene’.
The following is a Call for Papers for a Special Issue of the academic journal Organization. Full paper submission deadline is 28th February 2017.
‘Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature’ (Steffen, et al., 2007)
Through the rapacious consumption of fossil fuels, industrial activities and the destruction of forests, oceans and natural resources, humans have fundamentally changed basic Earth systems. This has occurred at such a scale and pace that Earth System scientists argue we are leaving the Holocene geological epoch and entering the more volatile ‘Anthropocene’. This is a period in which human activity has discernibly affected the Earth’s global functioning to such an extent it is now operating outside the range of any previous natural variability (Crutzen, 2002; Hamilton, 2015; Steffen, et al., 2007). These changes reduce the ‘safe operating space for humanity’ (Rockström, et al., 2009), and include: a likely step-change in the average temperature of the planet this century of around 4 degrees Celsius (New, et al., 2011); the sixth great species extinction in the geological record (Kolbert, 2014); the acidification of our oceans; the disruption of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; and the pollution of air and water with a range of chemical toxins (Whiteman, et al., 2013). Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, food and water shortages, and accompanying political conflicts and wars suggest that life this century for much of the planet’s population will be ugly, violent and precarious (Dyer, 2010). The implications for organizations and organizing could not be more profound. Continue reading Call for Papers: ‘Organizing and the Anthropocene’
Last week, I chaired a Sydney Ideas symposium on “The Biodiversity Crisis: Environmental, Social and Economic Impacts”. This event featured two leading experts on the topic: Professor Lesley Hughes from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and the Climate Council, and Professor Manfred Lenzen, head of Sustainability Research in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. You can view the full video of the event above which features Lesley’s talk “Can Biodiversity Survive the Human Race?” in which she explores the links between unprecedented species decline and climate change, as well as Manfred’s fascinating analysis of the links between global trade, supply chains and species extinction.
The declining diversity of our biological systems has been an on-going feature of human history. As we have developed ever more ingenious and efficient technologies to harness and exploit the natural world, so our impact on nature’s bounty has been crushing. One of the most emblematic examples of this process for me was reading Mark Kurlansky’s marvellous history Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Once a bountiful species (so great in number that John Cabot famously proclaimed in the 1490s that men could walk across the backs of cod on the Grand Banks), Atlantic cod were by the 1990s decimated through the introduction of industrial fishing techniques. Indeed, recent human history is littered with similar examples of species decline and extinction as a result of our industry. Reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book The Sixth Extinction, one of the most tragic is the story of the last great auk; powerful flightless birds that were hunted to extinction in the nineteenth century; the last breeding couple killed in an island off Iceland one June evening in 1844.
Humans are having an extraordinary impact on the life of the planet with species extinction rates now 100-1000 times the background rate. From a largely local phenomenon of habitat-loss and over-exploitation, biodiversity decline has now become systemic, driven by our increasingly globalized economy, expanding consumerism and accelerating climatic change. Indeed, many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history, and that the impacts on biodiversity, our life support system, will accelerate over the next century.
On October 7th, the Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) and the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney will be organizing a Sydney Ideas public lecture delivered by two of the country’s leading researchers on biodiversity decline from environmental and economic perspectives.
Professor Lesley Hughes from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and the Climate Council will pose the question ‘Can Biodiversity Survive the Human Race?’. In her talk she will explore how we let things get this bad, whether we still have a chance to save the Earth, and what we can all do to avert catastrophe.
Our second speaker, Manfred Lenzen, Professor of Sustainability Research at the University of Sydney, will explore how globalization and international trade are key drivers of biodiversity decline. He will outline his research which charts how demand for consumer commodities in developed economies drives species extinction in developing countries.
Details for this exciting event can be found here.