On 23 May, I received a curious email from my colleague Felix Pharand Deschenes, a Canadian anthropologist.
He told me I needed to get hold of a copy of Inferno, the latest Dan Brown thriller, published 14 May. The book, about a deadly plot to create a new plague to solve over population, contained a curious graph ostensibly from the World Health Organization (WHO) — or at least a fictional version of WHO.
The graph — really a composite of many graphs — depicts the incredible acceleration in human activity starting around 1950 and the knock-on impact on the Earth system.
What is striking is that the graph looks uncannily like the Great Acceleration graphs published by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) in 2004 in its synthesis Global Change and the Earth System. See below.
It is possible the WHO has used the IGBP graphs in a publication, or even developed these independently — I’m going to check with WHO. But the appearance in the book is intriguing. Even the titles of each graph reflect the original Great Acceleration graphs.