Initial Publication Date: January 27, 2020

Letter to the Editor

Letters to the editor of In the Trenches must be: 1) from NAGT members, 2) related to topics covered within recent issues, 3) submitted exclusively to In the Trenches, and 4) previously unpublished in any form. Letters should have full text included within the body of the submission and should be 500 words or less. Letters may be edited for clarity and brevity. To submit a letter, go to:

I was delighted to see the article by Rebecca Owens (In The Trenches, Vol. 9, No. 4, p. 6-8) regarding teaching the Anthropocene. I have been teaching a "human impacts" course framed around the Anthropocene for nearly five years, with a website that offers considerable supporting material: The Anthropocene Dashboard

The course and website are a small attempt to help fulfill the admonition of Paul Crutzen and Christian Schwägerl. The two suggested that "we must change the way we perceive ourselves and our role in the world (and) ...teaching students that we are living in the Anthropocene" would be of "great help" in accomplishing this goal (Crutzen and Schwägerl, 2011). Unfortunately, despite the thousands of articles written on all things Anthropocene (Brondizio, et al., 2016), teaching the Anthropocene doesn't seem to be part of this "radiative explosion" of Anthropocene study.

Perhaps this is due to the "siloization" of disciplines noted by the author and scarcity of interdisciplinary teaching that characterizes so much of our educational system (Elkana, 2016). However, the challenges of the Anthropocene demand interdisciplinary approaches, and the geosciences, as noted in the article, are critical to our success in maintaining humanity's "safe operating space" (Rockström, et al., 2009).

Human transformation of the Earth system from the Holocene "norm" defines the Anthropocene, as Crutzen suggested in 2002. Using a systems approach to teach the Anthropocene also embodies the principles of the 2009 Earth Science Literacy Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation. Geoscience educators do have a "heavy responsibility" to communicate the scale, scope and rate of human alteration of the Earth system to students of all academic levels. Profound issues of intergenerational equity (e.g., Hansen, 2013) are one of the distinguishing and urgent characteristics of the Anthropocene. Using a systems approach to geoscience education is imperative if we are to provide students, policymakers and the public with the knowledge and tools necessary to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene. - GARY A. GOMBY ( Department of Geological Sciences Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT


Brondizio, E.S., O'Brien, K., Bai, X., Biermann, F., Steffen, W., Berkhout, F. ,Cudennec, C., Lemos, M.C., Wolfe, A., Palma-Oliveira, J., and Chen, C.-T. A., 2016, Re-conceptualizing the Anthropocene: A call for collaboration: Global Environmental Change v. 39, p. 318-327.

Crutzen, P.J., 2002, Geology of mankind: The anthropocene: Nature v. 415, p. 23.

Crutzen, P.J., and Schwägerl, C., 2011, Living in the Anthropocene: Toward a New Global Ethos. New Haven (Connecticut): Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University.

Hansen, J., Kharecha, P., Sato, M., Masson-Delmotte, V., Ackerman, F., et al., 2013, Assessing "Dangerous Climate Change": Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature: PLOS ONE 8(12): e81648.

Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, A., Chapin, F.S. III, Lambin, E., Lenton, T.M., Scheffer, M., Folke, C., Schellnhuber, H.J., Nykvist, B., de Wit, C.A., Hughes, T., van der Leeuw, S., Rodhe, H., Sörlin, S., Snyder, P.K.,Costanza, R., Svedin, U., Falkenmark, M., Karlberg, L., Corell, R.W., Fabry, V.J., Hansen, J., Walker, B., Livermann, D., Richardson, K., Crutzen, P., Foley, J., 2009, Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity: Ecology & Society, v. 14(2), p. 32.

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