Reflecting on Anthropocene Day

At 5.29am on 16th July 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was tested in a New Mexico desert. And the world would never be the same. That test signalled the birth of the atomic age, the coming end of world war, the beginning of the Great Acceleration and (according to many scientists) the dawn of the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch in which humans now dominate the Earth system.

Seventy three years later there is a growing debate on human sustainability and resilience in the face of global change and an increasingly uncertain future. The idea of the Anthropocene and its significance is now being debated across multiple disciplines, and there is a growing chorus of the need for fundamental change in human values, behaviour and culture if the Great Acceleration is not lead us to a Great Collapse.

This forum, which brings together speakers from the ANU and NMA, proposes the proclamation of 16 July as 'Anthropocene Day', and that it marks a moment in the year when humanity reflects on the existential nature of our engagement with the Earth system that sustains us.

Does the world need another ‘day of reflection’? Is the very notion of an ‘Anthropocene Day’ helping us frame the challenges before us? Come and hear five experts share their experience and insight on the theme of the Anthropocene, and then make your own judgement.

Dr Bradley Opdyke (RSES, Earth Science) will discuss the biophysical evidence (stratigraphy) and significance of the Anthropocene

Professor Joan Leach (Director, ANU Centre for Public Awareness of Science) will speak on the challenge of engaging society with global change.

Professor Libby Robin (FSES, Environmental History) will talk on the Anthropocene and how it provides bridge for engagement across the humanities and biophysical science.

Dr Martha Sear (Head Curator, People and the Environment, NMA) will discuss how the Anthropocene is real in day to day life

Professor Will Steffen (FSES, Earth Systems) will talk of the birth of the term ‘Anthropocene’. He witnessed it first hand.

Together they will discuss: What is the value of the idea of the Anthropocene? What are the pros and cons of nominating 16 July as Anthropocence Day – a day of reflection? If the idea of an Anthropocene Day were to ‘take off’, what would be a valuable pathway for it to take? Chairing this Public Forum will be Professor Saul Cunningham, Director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society.                      

This event is free and open to the public. Registration via Eventbrite.