Essays

Welcome to the Generation Anthropocene blog!  Here, we will be posting written material of various kinds, from personal reflections to scientific investigations to photo essays to silly stories about Earth science.  We hope you enjoy this new material!

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(13 August 2013) What happened to the middle of the GMO debate?
The debate surrounding genetically modified organisms, often called GMOs, is an absolute mess.  A huge part of the argument stems from genetically modified foods.  Some people trumpet GM wheat and corn for its drought resistance and ability to feed more people in parts of the world that desperately need food.  Others point to unwanted side effects like the creation of super-weeds and the potential loss of biodiversity as reasons to be wary of this new technology. But what drove my desire to do a GMO story for Generation Anthropocene was something entirely different and was born from two intertwined questions: how did the GMO discussion become so polarized and why does it continue to feel like the topic of GMOs doesn’t allow for a middle ground? READ MORE…

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(4 August 2013) Episode #65 blog: Back to Anthropocene basics
Here’s a moment of honesty from behind the scenes at Gen Anthro: although we had heard wonderful things about Eric Lambin, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy his interview. My skepticism stemmed from the topic of his research – land use change. Sounds really important, but kind of boring, right? I thought the takeaway points from an episode about land use change would probably be predictable, and not very compelling. Humans change the land. There are some negative consequences from this. Cue outro music.

As the oracle bones prophesized, I wasn’t sold on the first listen to the interview tape. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, after I had done two or three rounds of edits on the audio, that I thought, Hang on a second. This interview might actually be awesome, because land use change is the most basic Anthropocene concept out there. Our podcast has been running for over a year; how have we not covered land use change until now?! READ MORE…

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(18 June 2013) Four geologists that nature just couldn’t kill
Most of the epic survival stories you’ve read probably involve crazy mountain climbers, adventurous cave divers, or bearded and grizzled desert hikers.  Scientists aren’t typically mentioned in this company.  But sometimes, geologists find themselves enduring nature’s worst in the pursuit of that must-have dataset… or at least, a dataset that seemed really important at the time.  Here are three stories about four geologists who found themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time when nature removed her flowery veil and donned her murder hat.  But before I get into those, it needs to be said that people perished during the events of some of these stories.  Given that, please consider this a celebration of the perseverance, luck, good fortune, and bad-assery of those who survived.  READ MORE…

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(11 June 2013) How am I supposed to answer, “Are we screwed?”
As a climate scientist in training, the most common question I get from my non-science friends is this: “So, are we just, like… screwed?” That’s it. That’s the question I get. Are we screwed?

It took a while for me to get comfortable with this question, and, at first, I had no idea how to react. This is a really interesting question to be asked. It’s vague, full of fear, and totally lacking any nuance whatsoever. Actually, if I’m honest with myself, it’s the question that drove me to become a climate scientist in the first place. Ten years ago I walked away from college thinking, “The planet is screwed, we’re all screwed. Or, at least I think we’re screwed. But wait…are we really screwed? Maybe not. Shoot, I don’t know. I don’t have enough information here. I’ll go back to school.”   READ MORE…

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(11 June 2013) The crazy history of 3 ridiculous geologic theories
Science is constantly reinventing itself, revising past theories and proposing new ideas that hopefully further our understanding of the world.  Copernicus proposed the heliocentric solar system, Newton had gravity, and Einstein gave us relativity.  But every once in a while, a theory gets proposed that’s downright nutty.  Not only that, some of these theories can persist for decades or even centuries.  As these ridiculous theories hang around, sometimes they find themselves intersecting with strange moments in history.  Here, I present the crazy history of 3 ridiculous geological theories.  READ MORE…

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