Welcome to the Age of Humans

Dr. Curt Stager visited Middlebury to talk about a new, long-term view of climate change. His book, Deep Future, examines the surprising shifts—and choices—we face in a human-driven era scientists are calling “the Anthropocene”: the Age of Humans.

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  1. I like the extension of time perspective Stager brings to the climate change discussion – our actions in the very near future can make a huge difference in how long and severe the effects of a warming climate play out into the next cool down period. How much negative compounding will we choose?

  2. Curt Stager has played with mud from the past enough that he thinks in deep time. Few people today worry about what happened in the past, nor do they care about what the future will bring after they are dead. People who think like Curt are concerned with the future of our species and the rock it lives on. Listen to him, he picks one hell of a banjo too.

  3. I have not read Curt’s book or heard his presentation but from discussions with my daughter,who is a geologist, I believe that he is crediting we humans with a lot more power than we have. I believe that the forces in the solar system are so much greater than ours that our attempts at carbon dioxide reduction may delay global warming by a decade or so but all the ice will continue to melt, the ocean level will rise to a peak in about 2000 years, the cold will return and there will be another global warming in 100,000 years, as there has been every 100,000 years for the last 346 million years.

  4. Mr. Lowman, I have asked Dr. Stager to respond to your question, and he has sent me the below. I heartily recommend his book, by the way–Stager’s one of those rare scientists whose writing style is as lucid as his scientific experience is deep.
    Dear Commenter:

    Your daughter is indeed correct that natural climate variability continues to play a major role in what we are experiencing today and will continue to do so in the future. But now that we have so much strong evidence of what natural cycles and factors are involved in the changes going on today and in the geologic past (orbital movements, volcanism, ENSO, solar variability, etc.), we can clearly see the influence of humans

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    increasing dramatically during the last several decades. We know what the natural forcing factors are up to, and they do not account for the recent well-documented warming, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and disruption of carbon isotope ratios in our bodies. Only the rise in carbon-based greenhouse gases explains it, and also we know what is driving that change most strongly – our increasing use of fossil fuels. This is the kind of crucial evidence that converted me, a paleoclimatologist, from my former position as a “climate skeptic,” and most other sincere skeptics are reaching the same conclusion as more and more evidence comes in. If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend that you read “Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life On Earth” (inexpensive used copies available on line now!), which I wrote with such questions in mind, using extensive support from the recent literature and taking great care to avoid wandering off into politics or ideology.

    All the best;

    Curt Stager
    Natural Sciences
    Paul Smith’s College
    Routes 86 & 30
    Paul Smiths, NY 12970

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  5. With all due respect to the temporal-biased beliefs of Mr. Rod Lowman, the more enlightened beliefs of Ms. Stadtmueller and Dr. Stager, and in greater hope for the future, let’s step back, take a deep, thought-calming breath, and realize the Truths we’re tossing about so glibly. Yes, in Centuries past, with a “Kings-in-Command” authoritarian power structure, we people lived mostly dis-empowered lives. Even “Kings and Queens” were thus limited. But today, 2013CE, the rapidly developing planetary brain structure we humans are creating – the “interwebs/internet”- truly will be a GAME CHANGER. So-called “Global Climate Change”/”warming” didn’t just start as a new environmental idea in the rebellious 1960’s. We humans have been altering Planetary Climate since we first made fire. And

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    smoke. And cutting firewood.
    But, that’s not where we are today. America’s *Addiction-to-Oil*(“fossil fuels”) – the acknowledgement of which is perhaps the only Public Good to come out of the Bush, jr. regime – is our basis, our pivot point, our fulcrum, and our lever, all at once.
    We can insist on clinging to outmoded, self-defeating beliefs of the past, as Mr. Lowman seems to suggest, or we can more fully embrace the future as his geologist daughter and Dr. Stager hope to do. We humans indeed do have the power within ourselves to effect global-scale changes.
    Earth is still our only home, but as we continue to travel, and live, farther out into our own Solar System, so too will our perspectives and perceptions expand. And our technological capabilities. So too, must our Ethics, and Wisdom expand. I believe they will.
    As we learn and understand, more, just how much damage we have done to Earth’s Biosphere, so too will we learn from our mistakes. We will learn to engage in Planetary-Scale, freely-undertaken efforts at managing and directing the future evolution of ALL LIFE on EARTH. THAT is truly our mutual, and now, manifest destiny. Yes, there is indeed some irony in my words here…
    I continue to choose to be immune to the infectious contagion of pessimistic negativity, and to moreso engage in infecting people’s minds with positive optimism. Will you join me? We may as well BORG ourselves, and become the true Stewards of Life on Earth…
    What better option may we see, than to love our Mother Earth’s smiling face…???…
    GO SOLAR!…(…thanks, Dad!…)

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We hope to create a lively discussion on MiddMag.com and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. MiddMag.com may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

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