For the fourth episode of the Climate History Podcast, Dr. Dagomar Degroot interviews one of the world's leading environmental historians: Dr. John R. McNeill of Georgetown University. Professor McNeill has authored or co-authored six books, and edited or co-edited twelve. He is perhaps best known for Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, which won the book prizes of the Forest History Society and the World History Association. He also wrote Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640-1914, which was awarded the Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association. McNeill has authored or coauthored well over 50 articles in journals that span the scientific and humanistic disciplines, ranging from Science to Environmental History. He is a past recipient of a MacArthur Grant, a Toynbee Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among many other awards.
In this episode, Professors Degroot and McNeill discuss the "Anthropocene:" the proposed geological epoch distinguished by humanity's profound transformation of Earth's environment. McNeill is currently a member of the Anthropocene Working Group for the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy. This body of experts recently recommended that International Union of Geological Sciences consider the Anthropocene a new geological epoch, with a starting date of around 1950. Professor Degroot therefore asks Professor McNeill about alternative starting dates, criticisms of the Anthropocene concept, and the special place of climate change in debates about humanity's recent reshaping of the Earth.
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