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Oct. 17 live-streamed event asks whether our dominion of the planet will end in extinction

earth at night from space
October 17, 2017

In geologically short order, Homo sapiens has altered the planet’s atmosphere, modified its watersheds, depleted forests, shrunk ice caps, damaged soils and set the climate on a new trajectory.

This human reshaping of Earth is so dramatic that scientists have proposed we are in a new, human-driven geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, ending the Holocene that began almost 12,000 years ago.

But what enabled our species to have such influence? Does the Anthropocene represent a tipping point within our highly connected natural, social, cultural and technological systems? And what is the future of the Anthropocene: Will it bring mass extinction, or will humankind orchestrate a course correction?

On Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, an interdisciplinary panel of experts — historians, biologists, earth scientists and artists — will explore this unique moment in our planet's history. The event will be live-streamed on the Santa Fe Institute’s YouTube page at, beginning at 6:30 p.m. PDT.

The panel, “The Past, Present and Future of the Anthropocence,” will be moderated by Manfred Laubichler, President’s Professor of theoretical biology and history of biology at Arizona State University and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI).

The discussion is sponsored by the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, a collaboration between ASU and SFI. It caps off four days of cultural and science events in Santa Fe, part of SFI’s new Interplanetary Series.

Panelists include:

  • Sander van der Leeuw is a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, co-director of the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, and the 2012 United Nations Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation. An archaeologist and historian by training, van der Leeuw and his research team investigate the role of invention, sustainability and innovation in societies around the world.
  • D.A. Wallach is a recording artist, essayist and investor in startups and technology companies. He has been featured in GQ, Rolling Stone, Vogue and numerous other publications, and has toured with N*E*R*D, Lady Gaga and Weezer. As one half of Chester French, he has released three full-length albums and has written and performed on several others. His solo debut for Capitol Records, "Time Machine," is available now. In 2016, he made his feature film debut in "La La Land."
  • Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist and a distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena evolved into a collaborative research program on the origin of universal laws that pervade biology, and the extension of those ideas to understand social organizations such as cities and corporations. His most recent book is "Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies." 

Laubichler and van der Leeuw are co-directors of the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems. West is an affiliated faculty member.

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