Explaining the Origin of the Anthropocene and Predicting Its Future

Ron W. NIELSEN

Abstract


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.

Full Text:


References


Barnosky, A. (2008). Megafauna biomass tradeoff as a driver of Quaternary and future extinctions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(Suppl.1), 11543–11548. doi. 10.1073pnas.0801918105

Bartlett, A.A. (2004). The Essential Exponential! For the Future of Our Planet. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska.

Biraben, J.-N. (1980). An Essay Concerning Mankind's Evolution. Population, Selected Papers, December.

Chiaia-Hernández, A.C., Günthardt, B.F., Frey, M.P., & Hollender, J. (2017). Unravelling contaminants in the Anthropocene using statistical analysis of liquid chromatography–high-resolution mass spectrometry nontarget screening data recorded in lake sediments. Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP. doi. 10.1021/acs.est.7b03357

Deevey, E.S.Jr. (1960). The human population. Scientific American, 203(9), 195-204.

Durand, J. D. (1974). Historical Estimates of World Population: An Evaluation. Analytical and Technical Reports, Number 10. University of Pennsylvania, Population Center. [Retrieved from].

Ehlers, E., & Krafft, E. (Eds) (2006). Earth System Science in the Anthropocene: Emerging Issues and Problems. New York: Springer.

Galor, O. (2005). From stagnation to growth: Unified Growth Theory. In P. Aghion & S. Durlauf (Eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth, (pp. 171-293). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Galor, O. (2011). Unified Growth Theory. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

GGDC, (2013). Maddison Project: Database. Groningen Growth and Development Centre. [Retrieved from].

Goldewijk, K.K., Beusen, A., & Janssen, P. (2010). Long term dynamic modeling of global population and built-up area in a spatially explicit way, HYDE 3.1. The Holocene, 20(4), 565-573. doi. 10.1177/0959683609356587

Goldewijk, K. (2016). Private communication.

Hern, W.M. (1999). How many times has the human population doubled? Comparisons with cancer. Population and Environment, 21(1), 59-80. doi. 10.1023/A:1022153110536

Hern, W.M. (2013). Private communication.

Hibbard, K.A., Crutzen, P.J., Lambin, E.F., Liverman, D., Mantua, N.J., McNeill, J.R., Messerli, B., & Steffen, W. (2006). Decadal interactions of humans and the environment. In: Costanza, R., Graumlich, L. and Steffen, W. (Eds).Integrated History and Future of People on Earth, Dahlem Workshop Report 96, pp 341-375.

Kapitza, S.P. (2006). Global population blow-up and after. Hamburg: Global Marshall Plan Initiative.

Kremer, M. (1993). Population growth and technological change: One million B.C. to 1990. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108(3), 681–716. doi. 10.2307/2118405

Livi-Bacci, M. (2007). A Concise History of World Population (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Maddison, A. (2010). Historical Statistics of the World Economy: 1-2008 AD. [Retrieved from].

Malthus, T.R. (1798). An Essay on the Principle of Population. London: J. Johnson.

McEvedy, C., & Jones, R. (1978). Atlas of World Population History. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd.

McFalls, J.A.Jr, (2007). Population: A Lively Introduction (5th ed.). Washington DC: Population Reference Bureau.

Nielsen, R. (2006). The Green Handbook: Seven Trends Shaping the Future of our Planet. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Nielsen, R.W. (2013a). Extinction of megafauna: How could the research get so wrong? [Retrieved from].

Nielsen, R.W. (2013b). Extinction of megafauna: Was it by humans? [Retrieved from].

Nielsen, R.W. (2013c). Computer simulations of the extinction of megafauna. [Retrieved from].

Nielsen, R.W. (2014). Changing the paradigm. Applied Mathematics, 5, 1950-1963. doi. 10.4236/am.2014.513188

Nielsen, R.W. (2015). The insecure future of the World economic growth. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 2(4), 242-255.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016a). Scientifically unacceptable established knowledge in demography and in economic research. Journal of Economic Library, 3(3), 429-457.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016b). The law of growth. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 3(4), 349-357.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016c). Mechanism of hyperbolic growth explained. Journal of Economic Library. 3(4), 411-428.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016d). Mathematical analysis of the historical economic growth with a search for takeoffs from stagnation to growth. Journal of Economic Library, 3(1), 1-23.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016e). Growth of the world population in the past 12,000 years and its link to the economic growth. Journal of Economics Bibliography, 3(1), 1-12.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016f). The postulate of the three regimes of economic growth contradicted by data. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 3(1), 1-34.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016g). Unified Growth Theory contradicted by the mathematical analysis of the historical growth of human population. Journal of Economics and Political Economy, 3(2), 242-263.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016h). Puzzling properties of the historical growth rate of income per capita explained. Journal of Economics Library, 3(2), 241-256.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016i). Mathematical analysis of the historical income per capita distributions. Economic Review, 3(2), 300-319.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016j). The unresolved mystery of the great divergence is solved. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 3(2), 196-219.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016k). The dichotomy of Malthusian positive checks: Destruction and even more intensified regeneration. Journal of Economic Bibliography, 3(3), 409-433.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016l). Demographic Transition Theory and its link to the historical economic growth. Journal of Economic and Political Economy, 3(1), 32-49.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016m).Unified Growth Theory contradicted by the absence of takeoffs in the Gross Domestic Product. Economic Review, 3(1), 16-27.

Nielsen, R.W. (2016n). Industrial Revolution did not boost the economic growth or the growth of population even in the United Kingdom. Journal of Economic Bibliography, 3(4), 434-446.

Nielsen, R.W. (2017a). Explaining the Mechanism of Growth in the Past 2,000,000 Years: The generally accepted fundamental postulates are contradicted by data. [Retrieved from].

Nielsen, R.W. (2017b). Application of differential equations in projecting growth trajectories. Journal of Economic Bibliography, 4(3), 203-221.

Nielsen, R.W. (2017c). Economic growth and the growth of human population in the past 2,000,000 years. Journal of Economic Bibliography, 4(2), 128-149.

Nielsen, R.W. (2017d). Puzzling features of income per capita explained. Journal of Economics Bibliography. 4(1), 10-24.

Nielsen, R.W. (2017e). Changing the direction of the economic and demographic research. Journal of Economic Library, 4(3), 288-309.

Nielsen, R.W. (2017f). Demographic catastrophes did not shape the growth of human population or economic growth. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 4(2), 121-141.

Smil, V. (1999). Detonator of the Population Explosion. Nature, 400, 415. doi. 10.1038/22672

Steffen, W. (2017). Private communication.

Steffen, W., Broadgate, W., Deutsch, L., Gaffney, O., & Ludwig, C. (2015). The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review, 2(1) 81–98. doi. 10.1177/2053019614564785

Steffen, W., Grinevald, J., Crutzen, P., & McNeill, J. (2011). The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 369, 842–867. doi. 10.1098/rsta.2010.0327

Steffen, W, Sanderson. A., Tyson, P.D., Jager, J. Matson, P.A., Moore III, B., …Wasson, R.J. (2004). Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet UnderPressure. The IGBP Book Series. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag.

Thomlinson, R. (1975). Demographic Problems, Controversy Over Population Control (2nd ed.). Encino, Ca.: Dickenson Pub.

United Nations, (1973). The determinants and consequences of population trends, Population Studies, No. 50. p.10.

United Nations, (1999). The World at Six Billion, [Retrieved from].

United Nations, (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision. New York: United Nations. [Retrieved from].

US Census Bureau, (2017). International Data Base. [Retrieved from].

von Foerster, H., Mora, P., & Amiot, L. (1960). Doomsday: Friday, 13 November, A.D. 2026. Science, 132, 255-296.

Waters, C.N., Zalasiewicz, J., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A. D., Poirier, C., Agnieszka Gałuszka, A., … Alexander P. & Wolfe, A.P. (2016). The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene, Science, 351(6269), aad2622. doi. 10.1126/science.aad262

Weaver, T. D., Roseman, C. C., & Stringer C. B. (2008). Close correspondence between quantitative and molecular-genetic divergence times for Neanderthals and modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(12), 4645-4649. doi. 10.1073/pnas.0709079105

World Bank, (2015). GDP Statistics from the World Bank, [Retrieved from].

World Bank, (2017). World Development Indicators. [Retrieved from].

Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, J.M., Steffen, W., & Crutzen, P. (2010). The new World of the Anthropocene. Environmental Science & Technology, 44 (7), 2228–2231. doi. 10.1021/es903118j

Zalasiewicz J, Crutzen,J. P.,& Steffen W. (2012). The Anthropocene. In: Gradstein F. M., Ogg, J. G., Schmitz, M. et al. (Eds) A Geological Time Scale 2012. (pp.1033–1040), Amsterdam: Elsevier.




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

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Journal of Economic and Social Thought - J. Econ. Soc. Thoug. - JEST - www.kspjournals.org

ISSN: 2149-0422. Editor : editor-jest@kspjournals.org   Secretarial: secretarial@kspjournals.org   Istanbul - Turkey.

Copyright © KSP Journals