For more than a decade, earth scientists have been studying a new geologic epoch they call the Anthropocene — the physical changes made by humans on the land, oceans, and atmosphere and to the ecosystem.
Now environmental historians like Gregory Cushman want to look beyond geology. Cushman, associate professor of history and environmental studies, is on a worldwide quest to trace the Anthropocene back to its social, cultural, and political beginnings.
What he finds could help answer environmental questions as simple as “Paper or plastic?” or as complex as whether to allow coal mining.
“It can provide us new insights about humanity’s ability to dominate the earth and all the ramifications of the past,” Cushman says.
As Cushman taught about the Anthropocene in his KU environmental studies classes, he found the topic was so new that it was difficult to find integrative perspectives. So he began creating a base of research himself.
Receiving a Carnegie Fellowship is allowing him to take two years off his teaching duties to travel around the planet to make new discoveries and add to interdisciplinary scholarship on the topic.