Evolution of the Anthropocene

Author(s): Erle Ellis

Year: 2018


Why did humans, unlike any other multicellular species in the history of the Earth, gain the capacity to shift Earth into a new epoch of geologic time, the Anthropocene? Here, a general causal theory, sociocultural niche construction, is presented to explain long-term changes in Earth’s ecology driven by societal dynamics across human generational time through sociocultural evolution of subsistence regimes based on cooperative ecosystem engineering, social specialization, non-kin exchange and energy substitution. It is these unprecedented anthroecological change processes that have enabled both the long-term upscaling of human societies and their unprecedented transformation of Earth. Regime shifts in human sociocultural niche construction over thousands of years can explain the sustained transformative effects of human societies on the Earth system. A global archaeology of the Anthropocene, combining both empirical and modelling approaches to reconstruct and examine the mechanisms underlying long-term evolutionary regime shifts in sociocultural niche construction, are the key to gaining a deeper scientific understanding of both the past and future prospects for humanity and nonhuman nature.

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Evolution of the Anthropocene. Erle Ellis. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443998)

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Abstract Id(s): 22756