Informed by comparative planetology and a survey of the major episodes in Earth history, this lecture will offer a taxonomy of planetary catastrophes meant to illuminate the unusual nature of the “Anthropocene”, the current era of human-driven planetary scale changes, and re-frame our current environmental and technological predicaments as part of a larger narrative of planetary evolution. This saga has now reached the pivotal moment when humans have become a dominant force of planetary change, and geological and human history are becoming irreversibly conjoined.
Is this a likely or even inevitable challenge facing other complex life in the universe? Possible implications for exoplanet characterization and SETI will be considered, as well as the choices our civilization faces in attempting to create a wisely managed Earth.
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