The Smithsonian Consortia hosted a symposium to address the tremendous scope of transformations now occurring on the Earth, with profound effects on plants, animals, and natural habitats. Geologists have proposed the term Anthropocene, or “Age of Man,” for this new period of planetary history. The symposium focused on the arrival and impact of this new era through the lenses of science, history, art, culture, philosophy and economics, and promoted discussion, debate and deliberation on these issues of change.
Speakers included Charles C. Mann, journalist and author of 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created; Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Sciences at the University of the District of Columbia; Richard Alley, Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University; and photographer and filmmaker Chris Jordan. To foster wide-ranging discussion of the issues, presentations were followed by responses from an interdisciplinary panel of scholars. The Honorable Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, former Congressman and Senator from Colorado, provided a summation of the day’s discussion.