The Age of Man and Climate Change

Monday, February 21, 2011

Elizabeth Kolbert explains how climate change caused by humans—building cities, changing the land through agriculture and deforestation, and carbon emissions from cars and industry—has risen to the level of geologic significance. Her article “Enter the Anthropocene—Age of Man” looks at the “Anthropocene,” the new epoch defined by humans’ massive impact on the planet. It appears in National Geographic magazine’s March issue.


Elizabeth Kolbert

Comments [15]

Ed from Larchmont

About Darwin - no one has a problem with his science, a great genius. People had discussed evolution (see St. Augustine) but Darwin proved it. It's his metaphysics - he argued for atheism using his science. All one has to recognize is that God can control the outcome of a random event and atheism doesn't follow necessarily at all from Darwin's scientific work.

And it makes sense that God would create beings in such a way that they could adapt to their environment without his constant help, a very economical and elegant way to do things. At the same time, he could guide evolution the beings created were exactly what he wished them to be.

Jan. 05 2012 06:03 AM
Ed from Mamaroneck

Darwinism is a different topic.

Feb. 23 2011 08:16 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Such a shame, since solar and wind energy are there in abundance for the taking.

Feb. 21 2011 06:34 PM
JV from ny/nj metro

Sorry - The quote was from Stephen Hawking in the interview with:Ken Campbell.

Feb. 21 2011 03:16 PM
JV from ny/nj metro

The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can't believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.

From an interview with Ken Campbell on the 1995 show Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken

Feb. 21 2011 03:06 PM
W Scott Lincoln

"Scientists: Sun's approaching 'Grand Cooling" assures new Ice Age "

It is hard to believe a link/story when the first sentence starts out so incorrect. No, NASA does not "agree" that there is some grand global cooling episode coming. Even if we were to enter another period of solar activity like the referenced Maunder Minimum, the changing atmospheric chemistry would cause enough of an energy balance to erase the solar effects within 1-2 decades at most. The difference between the peak of a solar cycle and the trough is actually quite small, less than 1% in terms of W/m2.

Feb. 21 2011 02:55 PM
Gail from Oldwick, NJ

Unfortunately I couldn't hear the entire show - I will check back later.

Brilliant discussion, thank you so much LL for hosting this interview. Ms. Kolbert is one of the most lucid and compelling speakers on the topic of climate change I have ever heard. More please!

Also, I missed part of the show and will have to check back later for when it is posted, but as to mass extinctions, I did not hear anything about the role of tropospheric ozone.

Ozone, another result of fuel emissions, is highly toxic to people and even more poisonous to vegetation. Trees are dying from serial exposure, and crop yields are down. The level of ozone is inexorably rising and this will, all in of itself, lead to mass extinctions of wildlife because they will run out of food to eat.

Ms. Kolbert, this topic is terribly neglected. Anything you can do to educate people about the dangers of continuing to pollute the air would be vital to preserving many species. Please visit for more information:

Feb. 21 2011 02:38 PM

Scientists: Sun's approaching 'Grand Cooling" assures new Ice Age

Feb. 21 2011 02:10 PM
JT from LI

I think this type of discussion is better if someone who doesn't believe in climate change is included. It always seems that the doubters get to speak on their own without someone like Ms. Kolbert to address their arguments. I've heard people spew "facts" they heard on Fox News and I believe that real debates are needed to get people to see that the skeptics don't have any facts on their side.

Feb. 21 2011 01:57 PM
CLCompton from nj

You speak of mass extinctions caused by humanity in an extremely vilifying light. Who is to say it is not part of the natural order of thing for we as a species to cause this. We have no idea of how many species were wiped out by the rise of the dinosaurs, so were the dinosaurs environmentally negligent as well or just following the natural order of things? I feel its irresponsible to automatically vilify the human species, it seems like some form of "Human Guilt" that we should be the stewards of this planet as if we were separate unto the planet,..we are part of it. Which is not to say we don't have to clean up our own back yard, I find it difficult to swallow the automatic vilification of the human species simply because we are following the inborn instinct to survive and propogate. thanks Ill take my beating off the air.....

Feb. 21 2011 01:55 PM
Jamie from Brooklyn

Such an important show, thank you for hosting this conversation. We take up many of these ideas (including plastic and nuclear waste in the geologic record) in our work— and in specific relation to New York City for a project called Geologic City.

Feb. 21 2011 01:50 PM

Is there any chance that years from now there will be a layer of plastics in sediment? They photo-degrade into smaller and smaller bits and I imagine they are beginning to cover the earth? Possible?

Feb. 21 2011 01:44 PM
Ed from Mamaroneck

What progress have we made toward green energy?

Feb. 21 2011 01:41 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Pesky homophones--I keep hearing "epic" even though I know you're saying "epoch"!

Speaking of how words sound, I was thinking "ANthropocene" until Ms.Kolbert pronounced it.

Feb. 21 2011 01:33 PM
herenow from here in crown hts

a few years back (2006) the New Yorker ran a Kolbert story about the deaths of the oceans - speaking on how not enough of the co2 in the atmosphere is being absorbed by plant life, but rather by the oceans and changing the acidification levels of the water and killing tiny microscopic life that all other ocean life depend on - setting off a fatal domino effect.

the article was unforgettable, this woman needs to be on your show on a fixed - regular basis.

there are so few platforms for people to speak about things other than TV and shopping - this is why ppl support public radio!

Feb. 20 2011 05:11 PM

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