Anthropocene is a relatively new term that has come to carry great value for environmentalists and scientists. This blog aims to discuss the Anthropocene and also to give own insights on the environment and the changes it is currently undergoing.
a) Anthropocene can be linked with the New Human Condition and refers to the change in perception and awareness regarding the state the earth is currently in (Gisli et al 2013:4). The term is used to refer to the changes the Earth went through geologically, ecologically and anthropologically (Waters et a 2016:2622-1). The concept of Antrhopocene indicates that the global system is not dominated by nature but rather by humans and that the environment is shaped by human activities (Steffen et al 2011:6). These human activities, however, influence and threaten the fauna and flora and ecosystems in these areas. Unfortunately these activities are often destructive and the fauna and flora of a specific area gets tread on or removed from their natural habitat. Even in the cases where fauna and flora are replanted, they often do not dat to the new ecosystem and dies. People have a no-care attitude when it comes to fauna and flora and they need to realise that nature is one with the environment and killing plants will inevitably hurt the human race as well.
b) After keeping a sound journal for two days, I found that there is a continuous buzzing noise that we tend not to notice everyday. I tried hard to pinpoint exactly where this noise comes from as it is almost strange to me that it is possible to hear it anywhere. Although I was not 100% certain in each case, the buzzing often came from air conditioners and/ or cooling systems of other types of machinery. The sounds of birds like hadedas are left in the background while hooters of cars, breaks screeching and cell phones ringing/ receiving notifications are absolutely in the foreground. These sounds are reflective of the Anthropocene with “natural” and human sounds being heard simultaneously in one environment. With the Great Acceleration after the Second World War (Steffen et al 2011: 847) everything started to evolve and develop. This meant that sound also developed and in many cases was the byproduct of machines. It is therefor unavoidable that these mechanised and human made sounds became consistently part of our lifestyle. Human activity is considered to be a driver of global environmental change (Gisli et al 2013:4). This activity uses sound to act as humans do not live quietly.
c) Listening to birds sing has always had a positive association for most people. Whitehouse (2015:53) argues that hearing birds is a special event for humans as it positions them in their world in a certain season, time of day, and piece of the world they find themselves in. It also creates a longing for a relationship with nature and their environment. Some people are alarmed by the possibility of the absence of birds singing (Waters 2015:53) and this is the point that makes the damage of the industrialisation to the environment a reality for many people. They cannot imagine the concept of not having the idealistic spring.
The concept of Anthropocene has influenced many people’s opinions and ways of perceiving/understanding situations regarding the environment we live in. The human influence on the earth has become visible and will still be in many years, even after the human race might be eliminated from the earth. Therefor people have become more sensitive to the influence of humans, whether it be in the form of pollution or destruction etc. As per influence of the Anthropocene, the understanding that nature cannot be removed from society has become prevalent (Whitehouse 2015:54). If nature and society are then one, the discernment in the mixed sounds of natural sounds and “human” sounds become blurred. These sounds have all become part of the environment.
The sounds of the birds that I have noted in the past few days come from only a few species. Doves are the most commonly found birds in the city and are also rather tame. Finches and hadedas are also quite commonly found in the area, as well as sparrows. The fact that I could only identify a few species means two things. Firstly, the biodiversity is definitely deteriorating with a big degradation of ecosystems. Ecosystems are disrupted by human destruction in order to industrialise an area. When ecosystems are disrupted, its inhabitants are negatively influenced and it can lead to the death of many members of the species. Secondly, as a student today, my knowledge of birds regarding the identification is quite shocking to me. The reason for this largely because we are not concerned with the details of environment these days, but prefer to focus on technology and what it and anything else that consumes our time can give us.
d) My father does bird watching as a hobby so he enjoyed giving me an account of the bird life that existed in their neighbourhood when he was growing up. He mentioned that even when I was a few years younger there was a difference in the bird life in our neighbourhood in comparison to now. When my father was a boy, they used to see many Blacksmith lapwings on open fields of grass and often on the rugby fields at schools. Another bird that was quite common in this type of area was a crowned lapwing. Other birds that were common then according to my father, include Hoephoeps, Southern red-bishops and Black-shouldered kites.
With the interviews with my parents and grandparents, I realised how much things have changed in the natural environment over the past 50 years. Most people of their age in South Africa experienced birds singing and waking them every morning as well as seeing many more species of birds in close proximity to their houses. Today these birds are driven away form their natural habitats by people building houses, child playgrounds and other buildings. similar to the birds, many plant species are lost because of human built environment staking form. There used to be a large open field between Pretoria and Johannesburg but this has become smaller to a large extent, also driving away most of the wild animals that lived there. Usually in cases like these, the unwanted wild animals would be transported to a nature reserve of some sort. The problem with this is that the ecosystem is disrupted with these newcomer animals and often has negative results on the biodiversity of the environment. I realised that from when I was in primary school there has been a clear loss of biodiversity, especially in the amount of birds present. However, in high school I hardly ever came across these birds on our rugby fields and it was probably the result of human intervention in this small area.
e) In conclusion, our soundscape reveals that we are living in the Anthropocene since the sounds we hear everyday reflect human activity and implies human dominance. We are no longer living in a world where society can be removed from nature. Mechanised sounds have become such a part of the environment that we no longer hear it or notice it. Unfortunately with living in the Anthropocene, ecosystems are destroyed and biodiversity is damaged. The development of technology and the popularity thereof calls for industrialisation and this has an inevitable effect on the environment. The human race needs to be aware of this and actively try to reverse or change these damages in order to preserve our existence.