Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780198792987

Erle C. Ellis
176 ページ
111 x 174 mm
Very Short Introductions



  • Describes the ways in which humanity has left its mark on the Earth, from pollution and the use of fossil fuels to mass extinctions
  • Offers an up to date synthesis of the science of the Anthropocene, drawing on the work of geologists, geographers, environmental scientists, archaeologists, and oceanographers to show how this is an issue at the heart of environmental politics
  • Considers key debates in the area, in particular where to locate the beginning of the Anthropocene in time, and whether it should be defined as a specific epoch on the Geological Timescale
  • Presents the Anthropocene more broadly as a new narrative forcing a radical revision of age-old questions concerning humans and our relationship with nature

The proposal that the impact of humanity on the planet has left a distinct footprint, even on the scale of geological time, has recently gained much ground. Global climate change, shifting global cycles of the weather, widespread pollution, radioactive fallout, plastic accumulation, species invasions, the mass extinction of species - these are just some of the many indicators that we will leave a lasting record in rock, the scientific basis for recognizing new time intervals in Earth's history. The Anthropocene, as the proposed new epoch has been named, is regularly in the news. 

Even with such robust evidence, the proposal to formally recognize our current time as the Anthropocene remains controversial both inside and outside the scholarly world, kindling intense debates. The reason is clear. The Anthropocene represents far more than just another interval of geologic time. Instead, the Anthropocene has emerged as a powerful new narrative, a concept through which age-old questions about the meaning of nature and even the nature of humanity are being revisited and radically revised. 

This Very Short Introduction explains the science behind the Anthropocene and the many proposals about when to mark its beginning: the nuclear tests of the 1950s? The beginnings of agriculture? The origins of humans as a species? Erle Ellis considers the many ways that the Anthropocene's "evolving paradigm" is reshaping the sciences, stimulating the humanities, and foregrounding the politics of life on a planet transformed by humans. The Anthropocene remains a work in progress. Is this the story of an unprecedented planetary disaster? Or of newfound wisdom and redemption? Ellis offers an insightful discussion of our role in shaping the planet, and how this will influence our future on many fronts.


1: Origins
2: Earth System
3: Geologic Time
4: The Great Acceleration
5: Anthropos
6: Oikos
7: Politikos
8: Prometheus
Further Reading


Erle C. Ellis is Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). His research investigates the ecology of human landscapes at local to global scales towards informing sustainable stewardship of the biosphere in the Anthropocene. He teaches environmental science and landscape ecology at UMBC, and has taught ecology at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Ellis is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the Subcommission of Quaternary Stratigraphy of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the scientific steering committee of the Global Land Programme, formerly of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), now of its successor organization, Future Earth, and a senior fellow of the Breakthrough Institute.

"In this Very Short Introduction, Professor Ellis illustrates the issues of establishing a new epoch beautifully and also gives an excellent history of the Anthropocene's development as an idea." - Jonathan Scafidi, Geoscientist

"[an] excellent, concise and foundational book" - Jim Richardson, Eyes on Earth

"Ellis provides us with an authoritative introduction to the Anthropocene ... a fascinating and erudite book"" - Leslie Sklair, LSE Review of Books

"An excellent introduction to this still controversial concept" - David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer

"This is a welcome addition to the Very Short Introductions series and would be a cheap, useful addition as a reference work to anyone concerned as to how we are transforming our world." - Jonathan Cowie, Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation