History is accelerating. Global population has crossed seven billion, the planet’s temperature continues its abrupt rise, and scientists warn we are in the midst of a new mass extinction. Transformations this enormous are rare in earth’s 4.6 billion year history and humankind’s planetary impact is geologic in scale. We have caused a new geologic age, and it has a name: the Anthropocene. Our students have grown up in this new era, and they are keen on learning what it will mean to live in the Anthropocene.
This spring graduate students Mike Osborne and Miles Traer, along with journalist and lecturer Thomas Hayden, taught a course for undergraduates entitled "Podcasting the Anthropocene." Their project: to have students learn about and communicate the gravity of these transformations and the evolving perceptions of environmentalism, sustainability, and science. Students spoke with geologists, engineers, ecologists, doctors, project managers, oceanographers, and historians on a wide variety of topics ranging from biodiversity loss to historical perceptions of the environment to agricultural systems to urban design to conservation philosophy.
The concept was to elicit the expertise of the Stanford community by having students sit down for one-on-one interviews with these researchers — including Richard White, faculty co-director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Jon Christensen, the Center's executive director, and Doug Bird, anthropologist and director of our Comparative Wests project — to explore their careers, their perspectives, and their understanding of the Anthropocene.