The astronauts

As a child I recall reading an article about the first astronauts. They reported that from space the imprint of humanity was negligible. Some scars were just about visible: the Great Wall of China and the occasional wake of an ocean liner passing between continents.

One day – sometime in the eighties – an advert appeared in a magazine. It was for a poster, a composite of satellite photographs taken of the Earth at night. There we were, impossible to miss. The sum total of humanity laid bare. The astronauts had somehow missed this important detail.

When people ask how long have I been working in global-change research I say since about the age of thirteen when the NASA poster arrived in the post. The image mesmerised me. The scale of our impact shocked me. The radials outwards from Paris. The towns and cities dotted along the Trans-Siberian railway.  The ocean surface reflecting the downward facing lights from Japanese shipping fleets. The burning oil heads of the Middle East. The blazing seaboards of the United States. The vast emptiness of Africa.

I studied Astronautics and Aeronautics at university and I am now a science writer. Since 2003, I have worked full time in environmental science communications. In 2009, my family and I moved to Stockholm where I joined the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) as Director of Communications. The work of IGBP perfectly captures my interests from a very early age.

In 2000, IGBP’s vice chair at the time, Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, and Eugene Stoermer argued humanity had done enough to deserve geological status and gave the world the Anthropocene.

This blog is about the Anthropocene: the concept, the implications and the revelations. It is about science, politics and life as we begin to navigate the Anthropocene.


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