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Steampunking The Anthropocene

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As a professional in the sustainability science field, I sometimes think we use the wrong language for what we do. I long for my undergraduate days when science was simpler. We would talk about the Law of Thermodynamics in physics, Van der Waals force in chemistry and the law of superposition in geology. In sustainability, we have to be know-it-alls and it is hard to express the new concepts that emerge when you mash all of this information together.

For that reason, I think we need to steampunk our language. Steampunk, of course, is a style that brings 19th century trends into modern situations. It is retro-futuristic.

As we all know, there is nothing more 19th century than scientific language. For example, the term uniformitarianism emerged during this era as a word that geologists use to express that the present natural forces acting on the earth today are key to understanding past geologic conditions.

Various believers of geologic theories during the era were called such wonderful terms as fluvialists, catastrophists and plutonists. Scientists classified, drew and collected. It was a wonderful time for exploration of new ideas. The scientific drawings, equipment and language fit nicely within the modern steampunk asthetic.

Now, as we are finding new ways of thinking about science, particularly in our era of widespread environmental change, we just don't have the colorful of language of the past. Much, but not all, of our language is too dry for my palette. We use language like climate modeling, managing risk and ecosystems services. These are hardly exciting terms that roll off the tongue.

That is why I am advocating steampunking the way we talk about sustainability and climate change. I have come up with three new steampunk terms that work quite well.

The Law of Sustainabilitarianism -- Human activity occurring on the planet today will change the world in predictable ways in the future.

This law is important because most of the world is in denial or whistling through the graveyard about the impact of human activity on the planet. Everyone in the scientific community knows that human activity is changing the planet in predictable ways. We just haven't been bold enough to create a law.

Geologists have already coined a nice steampunk term for the current era of human change-- the Anthropocene. So, the new law fits quite nicely within the lexicon. There is also a steampunk word for those who do not believe in The Law of Sustainabilitarianism. They are called denialists. Which gets me to the next steampunk term.

Anthropoceneologist -- Someone who studies environmental change in the Anthropocene.

The work of anthropoceneologists is focused on environmental change, which makes them very interdisciplinary in nature. Plus the type of change that is studied by anthropoceneologists is unlike that interdisciplinary work that was done in the past by ecologists or other environmental scientists due to the magnitude of environmental change. The study of our current era of change requires analysis of tremendous amounts of data which is aided by a cartobibliodatagraphecologer.

Cartobibliodatagraphecologer -- A human or artificial intelligence expert on large sets of environmental data, graphics and spatial and bibliographic information used to study the Anthropocene.

A cartobibliodatagraphecologer position evolved from cartographers, GIS experts, data analysts and bibliographic specialists. Today, a cartobibliodatagraphecologer is needed to fully analyze and interpret large sets of data appropriately. Some cartobibliodatagraphecologers are human and are able to broadly interpret the needs of an anthropoceneologist. However, some are programs, computer arrays and search engines like Google.

So as you think about new ways of describing the science of the Anthropocene, don your steampunk goggles, put gloves to keyboard and innovate.