Conversations in the Anthropocene

Introducing the Anthropocene
Colin Waters is Secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, the body investigating the Anthropocene as a potential geological time unit. His working group is putting forward a proposal towards the recognition of the proposed new epoch. They started in 2009 and up until last year, they were pulling together all information that was available. “For example the biological changes that have happened are irreversible. Once species are transferred across the planet, you can’t put them in a box and put them back in their indigenous state”, he has explained while being our guest in Delft: “Even things like carbon dioxide, this will last as a signal for thousands of years. Even if we are reducing our carbon emission immediately, we are still looking at emissions which are going to be elevated above natural levels for thousands of years. At the present, there is no indication that we are changing that trend.” The human impact may be like a meteorite impact. At the end of the Cretaceous Period when the dinosaurs became extinct, a spike of iridium (an extra-terrestrial element) changed the conditions on Earth. “You still find a layer of a few millimeters thick which is high in iridium, and we can use that as the basis of the start of the new Paleogene Period following the Cretaceous.” It has been “a state change, a game-changer, to a state which now is very different from what it was before and is not recreatable to a large extent either.” What is our share, as designers?

Architecture is perhaps one that we have not mined sufficiently in the past that can provide information that is new to us and help build the story that we are developing. – Colin Waters

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A New Era is Upon Us

…So say geologists who have recently heralded the Anthropocene as the world’s youngest epoch, shaped extensively by human intervention: Erosion and sediment transport through mining and agriculture, changes in the composition of the atmosphere through global warming, and an alteration in the biosphere are among the most pressing effects of humanity on the planet (International Commission on Stratigraphy). At the same time, the growing societal volatility of recent years – the spread of terrorism, the ongoing refugee crisis, the shift towards populism – make it increasingly difficult to forecast the effects of our actions on the planet. This might indicate that our climatic dilemmas are matched by social conflicts. Will this new era herald our end? Or are we at the dawn of a new epoch that will see us better succeed in sustainably managing the planet?

We must consequently ask ourselves what, if anything, we can do as designers to face the challenge of planning in increasingly unpredictable times: How can we imagine the future of a place like Syria, that has just witnessed an exodus of unprecedented scales? How can we still imagine a world in balance with its surroundings, when the ideals of sustainable development are not embraced by the global population? These are the kind of questions we would like to discuss with a wide range of thinkers in this year’s Urban and Landscape Week.

Towards the Edge of the Anthropocene
incl. a symposium with lectures, and discussions as well as a short competition.

16 October 2017
Keynote Lecture: Christophe Girot
Afternoon Lectures: Jan Willem Petersen, and Godofredo Pereira
Panel Discussion moderated by Maurice Harteveld

17 October 2017
Keynote Lecture: Colin Waters
Afternoon Lectures: Sabine Mueller, and Jan Jongert
Panel Discussion moderated by Maurice Harteveld

18 October 2017

19 October 2017
Keynote Lecture: Claudia Pasquero
Closing Event

Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Berlage Rooms and Oostserre
Delft University of Technology

at Polis ticket service