A Historian’s Perspective on Rivers of the Anthropocene

  • Philip V. Scarpino
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)


The assertion by leading scientists that the Anthropocene has replaced the Holocene as the most recent geological epoch represents an important opportunity to promote interdisciplinary communication. Determining the existence of a new geological epoch and naming it the Anthropocene is largely the domain of science. Analyzing and explaining the long-term human impact on earth systems that produced and sustained that epoch is the domain of humanists and social scientists, such as historians and archaeologists, who address the complex and changing connections between culture and nature. Historians look at the evolving relationship between people and their environment. History adds both the longue durée and context to present-day understanding of the interplay between human and natural systems. Writing in Smithsonian Magazine (January 2013), Joseph Stromberg, journalist and science writer, posed an essential question: “Have human beings permanently changed the planet?” His question is simultaneously historical and interdisciplinary; it highlights the role of human agency driven by an evolving mosaic of human culture. Rivers offer a metaphor for understanding the human environmental experience. As such they present an opportunity for the real and sustained interdisciplinary study, communication, and collaboration that could yield a credible and effective answer to Stromberg’s question.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip V. Scarpino
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History, IUPUIIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA

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