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The Anthropocene concept was developed by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen beginning in 2000 to reflect the realisation that human impacts had pushed Earth outside of the stable conditions of the Holocene Epoch. It quickly became a framing concept for the Earth System science community, with subsequent, ongoing analysis as a potential addition to the Geological Time Scale unit by geostratigraphers. The term's use then spreading widely to other disciplines. The Anthropocene may be described via striking, partly irreversible changes to the Earth’s physical surface (‘lithostratigraphic’), to its surface chemistry (‘chemostratigraphic’) and to its biology (‘biostratigraphic’). Its beginning is best placed around the mid-twentieth century at the same time as the sharp change in Earth System trajectory, driven by an expanding technosphere. Time will tell whether it becomes formalized, but its geological reality as the beginning of a major new chapter in Earth history is now beyond doubt.
Life relies on mutualistic relationships among species, and on the constant rejuvenation of Earth’s materials. Mutualistic cities would do the same thing, enhancing biodiversity, clean air, better soils, fresh water, and stronger communities. Today, however, cities are far from mutualistic. Currently, more than 4 billion people live in cities, and that number is rising quickly. These conglomerations of humanity consume vast Earth resources, and, worst yet, disgorge astonishing amounts of waste into the atmosphere, water, land and sea around them. Unlike "smart cities" that rely on sophisticated technology to monitor and respond to environmental conditions, and unlike "sustainable cities" that stress reduction and reuse, the concept of a "mutualistic city" emphasizes regenerative cycles and virtuous feedback loops. These cities are the key to our future.
In December 2015, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change invited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. In October 2018, the IPCC issued a Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This was the first IPCC report to employ the concept of the Anthropocene in its climate-change assessments – referring to it as the ‘overarching context’ and a ‘boundary concept’ that provides the ‘unifying lens’ through which to acknowledge ‘profound, differential but increasingly geologically significant human influences on the Earth system as a whole’.