Stewardship of the Earth

The article “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” by Will Steffen et al. discusses the ways that the anthropocene has swung the earth’s trajectory onto a catastrophic path. Demonstrated through several tables and diagrams, the authors lay out the implications of humanity’s effects on the Earth System. We have driven the overall temperature of the Earth to the extreme, and potentially to the point of no return. The authors frequently mention humanity’s “stewardship” of the Earth, a phrase I enjoyed greatly because it suggests that humans are the shepherds of the Earth, carefully guiding its path. It also denotes a sense of responsibility that is often not connected to the Earth. If we are stewards of the Earth, we are obligated to keep the Earth safe and stable and to not overindulge in the extraction of its resources. 

Another concept brought up was the idea of cultivating more plants in order to decrease the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This was an idea that I had not heard discussed to this extent, which was admittedly not much, before this article. The idea would be that, to encourage plants’ intake of carbon dioxide, humans would cultivate forests, especially those at the equator and poles, to grow and take in more carbon dioxide. However, as the authors point out, an increase in temperature decreases plants’ ability to take in carbon dioxide, which would be detrimental to the overall goal. Before, the solutions we were discussing were primarily focused on ways humans could either reduce their emissions or take pollution out of the atmosphere. The idea of furthering the natural process that already does this had not been discussed to this extent before. Coupled with the connotation of stewardship, this gives the article a greater overall tone of caring for the earth like a runaway child, slowly guiding it and encouraging its natural growth.

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