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Ambio. Nov 2011; 40(7): 739–761.
Published online Oct 12, 2011. doi:  10.1007/s13280-011-0185-x
PMCID: PMC3357752
The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship
Will Steffen,corresponding author1,2 Åsa Persson,2,3 Lisa Deutsch,2 Jan Zalasiewicz,4 Mark Williams,4 Katherine Richardson,5 Carole Crumley,2 Paul Crutzen,6 Carl Folke,2,7 Line Gordon,2 Mario Molina,8 Veerabhadran Ramanathan,9 Johan Rockström,2,3 Marten Scheffer,10 Hans Joachim Schellnhuber,11 and Uno Svedin2
1The ANU Climate Change Institute, The College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University, Coombs Building, Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia
2Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
3Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
4Department of Geology, University of Leicester, Leicester,  UK
5Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
6Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
7Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden
8Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA USA
9Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, CA  USA
10Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen,  The Netherlands
11Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
Will Steffen, will.steffen/at/anu.edu.au.
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Received June 29, 2011; Accepted June 29, 2011.
Abstract
Over the past century, the total material wealth of humanity has been enhanced. However, in the twenty-first century, we face scarcity in critical resources, the degradation of ecosystem services, and the erosion of the planet’s capability to absorb our wastes. Equity issues remain stubbornly difficult to solve. This situation is novel in its speed, its global scale and its threat to the resilience of the Earth System. The advent of the Anthropence, the time interval in which human activities now rival global geophysical processes, suggests that we need to fundamentally alter our relationship with the planet we inhabit. Many approaches could be adopted, ranging from geo-engineering solutions that purposefully manipulate parts of the Earth System to becoming active stewards of our own life support system. The Anthropocene is a reminder that the Holocene, during which complex human societies have developed, has been a stable, accommodating environment and is the only state of the Earth System that we know for sure can support contemporary society. The need to achieve effective planetary stewardship is urgent. As we go further into the Anthropocene, we risk driving the Earth System onto a trajectory toward more hostile states from which we cannot easily return.
Keywords: Earth System, Anthropocence, Planetary stewardship, Ecosystem services, Resilience
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Springer