Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE HUMAN PLANET: How we created the Anthropocene

THE HUMAN PLANET: How we created the Anthropocene
06 Sep
by Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin • Pelican • £8.99 (paperback)

Are we now living on ‘the human planet’? Lewis and Maslin are in little doubt. After nearly 300 pages of engaging arguments and snappy graphics, they state: ‘it is safe to conclude that we live in the Anthropocene’. So that’s settled then. More complicated is the discussion over when exactly the Anthropocene began, and what it means for our pre-existing Geological Time Scale. Should we peg it to 1950s nuclear testing? To the coldest recorded part of the Little Ice Age in 1610? Or perhaps to the Columbian Exchange beginning in 1492?

Defining the Anthropocene – often interpreted as an acknowledgement of anthropological climate change – becomes far more complicated when you consider that Homo sapiens haven’t only been altering the climate over the past century or so, but also for roughly 50,000 years prior to that, ever since we began spreading around the globe, wiping out megafauna and our hominin cousins. Emissions from early agriculturalists are believed to have prevented a glacial event 5,000 years ago, while the arrival of Europeans in the Americans 500 years ago led to rampant disease outbreaks and the deaths of an estimated 50 to 80 million people, resulting in rapid reforestation across the continent, with a a significant atmospheric impact. Our recent experiments with coal, oil and gas are just the latest, more intense episode (‘fossil fuel use has created a super-interglacial,’ they argue).

Lewis and Maslin remind us that Victorians confidently spoke of the ‘Anthropozoic epoch’, the significant role of humanity in defining the modern age. Interestingly, scientific achievements throughout history have revolved around diminishing the role of humanity, reducing our species to one strand of a very large web of life. Acknowledging the Anthropocene reverses that. It forces us to accept that, while we may not be inherently special as a species, we have assumed such a position of power that we have almost no choice but to respond appropriately or deal with the consequences. What matters is what kind of story we decide to tell about this epoch, and what kind
of response that turns out to be. As the book makes clear, the radical creation of the Anthropocene can leave  us with many more questions than answers.

Click here to buy The Human Planet by Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis on Amazon

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.


Subscribe to Geographical!

University of Winchester


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...


by John Foot • Bloomsbury • £25 (hardback)


by Deborah Baker • Chatto & Windus • £25 (hardback)


By Lucy Seigle • Trapexe • £12.99/£6.99 (hardback/eBook)


by Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin • Pelican • £8.99 (paperback)


by Christoph Baumer • IB Tauris • £30 (hardback)


by Charles Lane • River Books • £40 (hardback)


by Graham Hoyland• William Collins • £20 (hardback)


by Dr Lucy Jones• Doubleday Books • £19.99 (hardback)


by Daniel Pinchbeck• Watkins • £9.99 (paperback)


by Jasper Winn • Profile Books • £16.99 (hardback)


by Nathan H Lents • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £16.99…


This hard-hitting marine conservation film – part of the Ocean…


Here are the newest non-fiction offerings to satisfy that craving…


The Society’s Earth Photo exhibition captures the planet’s natural riches…


by Alanna Mitchell • Oneworld • £16.99 (hardback)


by Christopher J Preston • The MIT Press • £20.95…


by Jamal Mahjoub • Bloomsbury • £25 (hardback)


by Joanna Kafarowski • Dundurn Press • 15.99 (hardback)


by Peter Dauvergne • Polity Books • £9.99 (paperback)


by Mary Beard and David Olusoga • Profile Books •…