• 18:00 Doors open
  • 19:00 Lecture
  • 20:00 Drinks reception
  • 21:30 Close

The dress code is smart casual

Our second Annual Lecture, in association with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) was held on Thursday 12 February 2015 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

Are we bigger than the biosphere? An ecologist's examination of our human-dominated planet

Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford

"We live in a new epoch, the Anthropocene, the Age of Us. The defining feature of this age is that sum of human activity (how many we are and what we are doing) has become large compared to the natural processes of the biosphere. How can we measure how "large" we are, and how has our impact on the planet varied throughout human history? I examine this question through the concept of social metabolism, how much energy we use to support our lifestyles, compared to the metabolism of the biosphere. With this concept in hand, we will travel from a world full of hunter gatherers after the end of the last Ice Age, through the dawn of farming, the Roman Empire, the industrial revolution and finally look at prospects for the 21st century. On the way we'll examine whether our cities behave like termite colonies, and whether people walk faster in London than in Oxford. And you'll find out how you are like King Kong …"
Prof Yadvinder Malhi. © Tom Weller

Yadvinder Malhi is Professor of Ecosystem Science at the School of Geography and the Environment, Programme Leader in Ecosystems at the Environmental Change Institute, and a Fellow of Oriel College, at the University of Oxford. His research interests focus on the ecology and functioning of between forest ecosystems and how they are responding to multiple human pressures including climate change. The major focus of his work is to understand the interactions between forest ecosystems and the atmosphere. This includes the cycling of carbon, water and nutrients, the climatic controls on ecosystem metabolism and biomass, and more recently, assessing the impacts of land use change and the potential of forest protection to mitigate global climate change.

Much of his work takes a systems view, examining the flows of energy, carbon and nutrients through ecosystems. More recently he has applied these tools to examine resource and energy flow in human societies throughout history, and the challenges faced as such flows approach and potentially exceed resource flows through the rest of the biosphere. These recent explorations will be the focus of his lecture.

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