Published Date: September 26, 2017



Explores the causes and implications of the Anthropocene, or Age of Humans, from multiple points of view including anthropological, scientific, social, artistic, and economic.

Although we arrived only recently in Earth’s timeline, humans are driving major changes to the planet’s ecosystems. Even now, the basic requirements for human life–air, water, shelter, food, nature, and culture–are rapidly transforming the planet as billions of people compete for resources. These changes have become so noticeable on a global scale that scientists believe we are living in a new chapter in Earth’s story: the Anthropocene, or Age of Humans. Living in the Anthropocene: Earth in the Age of Humans is a vital look at this era. The book contextualizes the Anthropocene by presenting paleontological, historical, and contemporary views of various human effects on Earth. It discusses environmental and biological systems that have been changed and affected; the causes of the Anthropocene, such as agricultural spread, pollution, and urbanization; how societies are responding and adapting to these changes; how these changes have been represented in art, film, television, and literature; and finally, offers a look toward the future of our environment and our own lives.

Kress is the co-editor of “Living in the Anthropocene,” a new book by the Smithsonian that puts our current dynamic age in context through more than 30 essays by experts in disparate fields all affected by our changing planet.

Each essayist grapples with where we’ve been (the Holocene and the end we have brought to that era), where we are now (rising sea levels, storms of increasing frequency, dramatic temperature fluctuations, and a timid global response), and where we are going…the book is itself a kind of road map for how to think about the new world we are entering, and how to cope with and chase away its many dragons.

Author Information

W. JOHN KRESS, a distinguished scientist and curator of botany at the National Museum of Natural History, formerly served at the Smithsonian as the Grand Challenges Consortia’s director of science and the interim undersecretary for science. Trained in evolutionary biology, systematics, and ecology, he is also the author of The Weeping Goldsmith: Discoveries in the Secret Land of Myanmar. JEFFREY K. STINE is curator for environmental history at the National Museum of American History and the author of the award-winning books Mixing the Waters: Environment, Politics, and the Building of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and America’s Forested Wetlands: From Wasteland to Valued Resource.


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