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Welcome to the Anthropocene: The Earth in Human Hands – Oystein S. Labianca

Date: 12 November 2016
Speakers: Dr. Oystein S. Labianca
Positions:  Professor of Anthropology; Associate Director – Institute of Archaeology
Topic: Welcome to the Anthropocene:  The Earth in Human Hands
Venue:  Garber Auditorium, Chan Shun Hall
Attendance: 50

Dr. LaBianca described how humans are affecting the future of this Earth.  “What kind of world are we leaving for our children?” he asked, citing a quote that “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors.  We borrow it from our children.”
“We have a God-given duty to care about what we are doing to the Earth,” he stated, citing Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and all its fullness thereof.”
He mentioned the research at Tel Hisban, Jordan, where he and his team of archaeologists have dug down through 21 layers dating back three millennia, while noting how the sharp increase during the past century in humanity’s population to over 7 billion is overwhelming the Earth’s natural systems. Along with the population surge has been an equivalent surge in everything from water use to methane production to power, dams, etc.  There were slides to show the increase in each respect.
LaBianca also compared the impact of human vegan, lacto-ovo, and meat-based diets – both organic and conventional – on the production of greenhouse gases.  A vegan organic diet had the least impact, while a meat-based conventional diet resulted in the production of many multiples of the amount of greenhouse gases.
The International Group on Climate Change has express concern regarding rising oceans and the impact they will have on populations in coastal areas.  Natural disasters also seem to have increased over the past 30 years.
LaBianca contrasted those who seek to reduce the impact on Earth’s atmosphere with climate change deniers, including the large number of them in American governmental positions up to and including President-elect Trump.  We need long-term thinking, not just short-term thinking.  Short-term thinking in capitalism leads to the demand for profits now without adequate concern for negative externalities, both in regards to production and consumption. Short-term thinking also leaves out concern for future generations. In fact, if everyone lived like an American we would need 4.1 Earths just to support the Earth’s current population.
We are all in this together, LaBianca argued.  This means ending the practice of treating the environment and future generations as inconvenient externalities, and instead embracing the mandate to be stewards of God’s Creation. An example of what we can do right now is becoming more Earth aware as we shop, and to help with that, LaBianca recommended an app called Good Guide for iPhone which “lets users scan barcodes to get health, environment and social responsibility ratings while in the store.” For more about this app see http://www.goodguide.com/about/press/releases/iphone .
LaBianca concluded by reminding that a “bottom up” effort “trumps top-down.”

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