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Here’s how it is: the seven billion people alive today are changing the planet in big ways. These are changes we can actually measure—the way we have altered the surface of the Earth, the number of species living here, the new balance of chemicals in the oceans and in the atmosphere, to name just a few—and they’re adding up. The effect people have on the planet is so big that lots of scientists think that humans have actually started a new period in natural history of the Earth: the Anthropocene.
But the new human-dominated period isn’t just doom and gloom, and it’s certainly not the end of the world. In fact, the Anthropocene is the beginning of something new and exciting: an age in which humans—you and me and everyone else—have the power to make this planet the best possible place for us to be.
It’s like humanity just got its driver’s license. We now have the freedom and ability to do pretty much whatever we want, but that power comes with responsibility. We can keep speeding along, maybe run over some pandas, and drive this planet into the ground, or we can take care of it, make sure it stays in good working order for years to come, and enjoy ourselves while we’re at it.
It’s not simple, and there will be big challenges as well as big opportunities. But if we made our place in the future Earth (and we did), it’s also in our power to make it better.