Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics
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Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

The Anthropocene Gap

Victor Galaz

We live on an increasingly human-dominated planet. Our impact on the Earth has become so huge that researchers now suggest that it merits its own geological epoch - the 'Anthropocene' - the age of humans. Combining theory development and case studies of 'planetary boundaries', emerging infectious diseases, financial markets and geoengineering, this groundbreaking book explores the 'Anthropocene Gap' otherwise known as society's current failure to address the most profound environmental challenges of our times.
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Chapter 7: Bridging the 'Anthropocene Gap'

Victor Galaz


Once in a while you run into a talk, a presentation or a discussion that really helps you put a structure to previously loosely connected ideas or disjointed reflections that you've been pondering fruitlessly for a while. Listening carefully to other peoples' stories usually helps me. My colleague Stephan Barthel is an always unpretentious and insightful storyteller. At a morning seminar about mental models and how they shape the future of our planet, Stephan eloquently elaborated the way different perceptions - or discourses - about the future of urban systems, fundamentally drive urban development today. Urbanization is a major force of not only economic development, but also environmental change. The way we choose - or not choose - to design our cities have fundamental impacts on the biosphere. Just consider the aggregated ecosystem impacts of land use change, and changes in surface albedo in a world where an area equivalent to South Africa is projected to be converted to urban land by 2030. This entails a doubling of urban population from today's 2.8 to 4.9 billion (Seto et al. 2012). In addition, more than 60 percent of the cities of 2030 are yet to be built (from Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2012). The interesting part of this story, as my colleague noted, is that there is a tangible tension between very different, yet co-existing urban discourses.

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