EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Defining the Anthropocene for the greatest good as an Event-based Renaissance

Emlyn Koster
Emlyn Koster
  • Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Director Emeritus, Canada (

Paul Crutzen’s concept of the Anthropocene in Nature in 2002 stressed that “a daunting task [lay] ahead for scientists and engineers to guide society towards environmentally sustainable management” and that “this will require appropriate human behaviour at all scales”. The proposal by the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy for an ‘Anthropocene Epoch’ with an isochronous mid-20th century start has been recently challenged by another group of researchers. Mindful of the diachronous impacts of human evolution, they favor a much longer and still ongoing ‘Anthropocene Event’.

In sync with IUGS goals to promote public understanding of the Earth and contribute to international policy decisions, the Anthropocene debate offers an unprecedented opportunity for the geoscience profession to become proactively relevant to the UN’s next-step vision for Planet Earth. Arguably, its 2015-2030 agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals each focused on a facet of society and the environment needs a more holistic successor with realistic thinking about sustainability, “one of the most overused and ill-defined words in conversations about the environment” in the view of Andrew Revkin at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Ideally, the UN’s successor plan would be aligned with the interdependent subsystems of the Earth-Human System and propelled by transdisciplinary involvement of the sciences and humanities.

Echoing an observation by Stanley Finney and Lucy Edwards in GSA Today in 2016 that the terms Anthropocene and Renaissance have similar characteristics as “richly documented, revolutionary human activities”, an ‘Anthropocene Renaissance’ would highlight the need for greater harmony among and between environmental and societal movements. In this vision, the past-framed ‘Anthropocene Event’ underpins the future-framed ‘Anthropocene Renaissance’ as a boldly integrated effort to ‘protect our planet’, one of twelve commitments made by world leaders in 2020 at the UN’s 75th Anniversary Meeting. In a profile of the Anthropocene debate in The New York Times on 18 December 2022, the conclusion featured my interview: “I always saw it not as an internal geological undertaking but rather one that could be greatly beneficial to the world at large”. The UN’s ‘Summit of the Future: Multilateral Solutions for a Better Tomorrow’ will take place in New York City on 22-23 September 2024.





How to cite: Koster, E.: Defining the Anthropocene for the greatest good as an Event-based Renaissance, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-6182,, 2023.