Human impact on the Earth system seen as a planetary phenomenonA team of researchers devised a new classification scheme for the evolutionary stages of worlds based on “non-equilibrium thermodynamics” — a planet’s energy flow being out of synch, as the presence of life could cause. The categories range from imagined planets with no atmosphere whatsoever to those with an “agency-dominated biosphere” or even a “technosphere,” reflecting the achievements of a vastly advanced, “energy-intensive technological species.”
Their paper, “Earth as a Hybrid Planet: The Anthropocene in an Evolutionary Astrobiological Context,” was published Sept. 6 in the journal Anthropocene. The new classification system is a way of thinking about sustainability on a planetary scale in what is being recognized as the Anthropocene epoch — the geological period of humanity’s significant impact on Earth and its ecosystems. The authors say that humans and the urban areas we create are having a strong, planetwide effect on evolution.