Monday, March 26, 2012

Planet under Pressure: State of the Planet (Day 1)

Planet under Pressure: State of the Planet.
The first day of the conference focused on general descriptions and views of the planet from a human perspective. Clearly, the conference is more about "People under Pressure" than "Planet under Pressure", based on these presentations. An annoyingly large number of UK speakers and panelists were featured at this aspiringly global conference. Many of them had the same message, "time to act", a decade ago, emphasizing the stalemate we are in and our inability to create actionable knowledge.
The sciency talks were good.  I especially liked the biodiversity presentation by Sandra Diaz and Steffen gave his informative Anthropocene graphs talk (both non-english accents).  A famous economics guy, Tony Giddens (he was called Lord several times), offered nothing insightful, but was, of course, selected in the UK news for his message (that is, we need change).  Panels are now the standard mode of these type of meetings, with panelists talking for 5 min about their thoughts on their topic of choice, and sometimes answers to (tweeted) questions.  A seemingly bored UK Chief Scientific Advisor, John Beddington, did not hide his effort to prefer prepared words (he was called Sir John each time, which makes me think of A Knight's Tale, not science guy).  The moderator, a former? BBC-WN anchor, was the most energetic of the morning.
The afternoon breakout that I attended on the Anthropocene was more engaging.  This was one of 10 or so break-out sessions.  The Anthropocene was loosely defined as the epoch when humans are the main surface processes driver.  I'd agree that we might be seeing the bottom of a new epoch or it is just a brief geologic event (like the consequences of an impact).  Too soon to claim the end of the Holocene (which is already over-tuning the record) with little geologic evidence that a new identifiable human-centric epoch will be lasting 1000s of years.  On the other hand, unless something dramatic happens soon in today's world, these surface processes may be noticeably preserved in the geologic record.  The jury is out on the Anthropocene, but it makes a great discussion starter about human impacts, regardless.
Good day overall.
Monday, March 26, 2012.

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