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The Information Age – Informatia

Distinguishing features

EEA: mostly urban
Communication: verbal+written+printed+global, instantaneous, and electronic
Lasts: ?
Energy source & use: animal and plant food (increasingly synthetic) with complex social activity maintained by renewable energy and consumption remaining >200,000 kcal/capita/day
Group size: Global
World population: peaking at c. 11 billion around 2050-2100
Diet: mixed diet of animals, plants and processed foods but returning to plant-based foods
Values: trend towards egalitarian and democratic institutions as a tension between authoritarian (traditional) and emancipative values. Today, with most of the world’s people living in cities, we are suspicious of political and gender hierarchies and resist violence, but accept some wealth differentiation.
Ecological impact: High rate of species extinction: humans impacting noticeably on global biogeochemical cycles from around the 1950s at onset of the Great Acceleration (Anthropocene) Great Acceleration; high rate of species extinction: humans impacting noticeably on global biogeochemical cycles (Anthropocene); nuclear footprint

Discussion

The closure of the Age of Plants is also signalled by the onset of a new phase in human history confronting us with a new set of social, economic and environmental challenges emerging out of the relationship between human population numbers, economic activity, energy consumption, and the increasing demand for natural resources exploited by ever more efficient technology.

Though the various parameters are only just coming into focus it has been most clearly articulated and supported by the scientific community as the ‘Anthropocene’ an era in which planet earth is dominated by humans and their activity. Though its time of initiation is disputed there are a cluster of novel factors that humanity now faces that warrant recognition, here referred to as the phase ‘infomatia’.

Nuclear fallout

World War II and the subsequent bout of nuclear testing that left a permanent planetary signature is a convincing candidate.

Population to plateau

Most notable is the post-1950s Great Acceleration with humanity facing peak population of about 11 billion people between 2050 and 2100 people, followed by a likely decline in numbers – which places an upper limit on humanities likely resource demands.

Global biogeochemical cycles

The post-WWII human impact on the world’s biogeochemical cycles is perhaps most apparent, though by no means confined to, climate change.

Urbanisation

Urbanisation has In 1900 London’s total of 6.5 exceeded the second-largest city, New York, by about 2.2 million but by 1950 New York’s population of 12.5 exceeded that of the world’s then second largest city, London, by 3.6 million.Today about 55% of people live in cities, a figure that is expected to reach 68% by 2050 (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs). In 2015 the world’s largest cities were: Tokyo 37 million, Delhi 26 million and Shanghai 24 million reflecting the passage of economic activity to Asia reflecting the advent of the megalopolis as cities merge into continuous urban regions.

Anthromes as biomes

more than 75% of Earth’s ice-free land area can no longer be considered wild as swathes of once relatively pristine nature have been converted into cultural landscapes populated mostly by anthropogenic or ‘man-made’ plants (cultigens).

Global electronic communication

The advent of the internet has transformed communication and academic research as ever more information becomes available globally and instantaneously.

Biotechnology

Following the cracking of the genetic code in 1952, the rapid advance of biotechnology and genetic engineering has placed humanity in a totally new relationship with nature and its manipulation.

There is now accumulating evidence for the recognition of a post-World War II phase of human history commencing around 1945. Socially it is marked by the Great Acceleration in human population and rapid increase in the momentum of economic activity. Economically it is sometimes referred to as the post-industrial information society or knowledge economy in which the service sector generates more wealth than the manufacturing sector as we move from printed to digital communication. Politically it is associated with decolonisation, the geopolitical dominance of America, and the formation of the United Nation, and latterly the rise of Asia, particularly China.
Scientifically university disciplines were diversifying under the influence of the 1960s environmental movement and ecologically based subjects (e.g. conservation biology and environmental history) especially at the global scale, while the cracking of the genetic code in 1952 spawned a host of new disciplines in the field of molecular biology, now grounded firmly in evolutionary biology and supported by industrial biotechnology. Horticulture was catering as never before with the new sprawling suburbs surrounding the rapidly expanding cities.

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