Explaining the Origin of the Anthropocene and Predicting Its Future



Abstract. New interpretation of the Anthropocene is presented, the interpretation based on the rigorous analysis of the growth of human population and of economic growth in the past 2,000,000 years, which are found to have been hyperbolic. The Anthropocene appears to transcends the geological epochs of Pleistocene and Holocene. Anthropogenic impacts evolved over a long time on the canvas of hyperbolic growth of population. There were probably various stages of the Anthropocene in the past 2,000,000 years or even over a longer time. The current stage is distinctly different because now, for the first time in human existence, we are shaping our global future and even the future of our planet. This modern stage of the Anthropocene is characterised by the rapid growth of population, rapid economic growth, rapid consumption of natural resources and rapidly increasing impacts on the environment. All these features can be easily explained by characteristic properties of hyperbolic growth. Hyperbolic distributions are slow over a long time and fast over a short time. The origin of the Anthropocene can be explained as the natural consequence of hyperbolic growth of population. The mechanism of the Anthropocene can be also explained by referring to the mechanism of the growth of population. The beginning of the current stage of the Anthropocene is difficult or maybe even impossible to determine because anthropogenic impacts are likely to have been increasing monotonically. The future of the Anthropocene, which is also our future, is uncertain because it is dictated by many critical anthropogenic trends, but notably because the size of the world population is predicted to continue to increase at least until the end of the current century to a possibly unsustainable level and because the world economic growth follows now an unsustainable trajectory. Effects of the current human activities might affect global ecosystems for a long time into the future but we might not be there to see them. 

Keywords. The Anthropocene, Economic growth, Population growth, Mechanism of growth, Hyperbolic growth, Exponential growth, Future of the Anthropocene.

JEL. A12, F01,Y80.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1453/jest.v4i4.1485


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