The planetary crisis of the Anthropocene: Cultural evolution and environmental change

Jaume Terradas


We are living through a crisis which we call Anthropocene. The determining force in this period is the expansion of humankind as the result of a new biological process, cultural evolution. This has allowed us to construct an enormously extensive niche thanks, above all, to the increased use of exosomatic energy. The growth is accelerating rapidly and the impact on our socio-ecological structure is unpredictable. Environmental change exerts new selective pressures on human societies, which try to adapt, which in turn, forces new changes. Our demographic growth and improved living conditions are threatening resources and even our basic life-support processes but, even though we study their ecological impact, but their causes are social. The destruction of cultures and biodiversity is the heritage of colonialism, even though it is now following different paths or being played out by different actors. We need to generate universal messages, not attempt to perpetuate Western supremacy and the ideology of indefinite progress, but an intercultural effort to reach a consensus on universal values and to generate the corresponding institutions.


cultural evolution; coevolution; environmental change; niche construction; universal values

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