Is the Anthropocene really our scene?

I aim to discuss the Anthropocene in this blog post in terms of what it is and what the consequences of living within the Anthropocene are, with reference to the readings of Gisli, P et al. (2013), Steffen, W et al. (2011), Waters, CN et al. (2016.) I will also be discussing the sound of the Anthropocene around me, and how the loss of bird species and biodiversity is evident of the Anthropocene that we live in. Using questions formed in Whitehouse, A (2015.) I will discuss the loss of bird biodiversity and the prevalence of birds in the present compared to the past.

According to Gisli, P et al. (2013), Steffen, W et al. (2011), Waters, CN et al. (2016), the Anthropocene is a proposed new period in Earth’s history, a new epoch, where the impact of the presence of humans can now be seen in the environment on such a grand scale, that it can be comparable to events in Earth’s geological timescale such as the ice ages. Waters (2016) states that humans, as drivers of change, contribute to the Anthropocene through: “accelerated technological development, rapid growth of the human population, and increased consumption of resources. As a result of these contributing factors, the environment is under threat from the rise of greenhouse gases and the increase of the greenhouse effect from the rise of industries and industrial practices. Animal species are dwindling and disappearing daily at an increasingly alarming rate. Up to 200 species including birds, insects and mammals go extinct daily, which is far beyond what is normal and natural within the world’s eco system, as noted by Huffpost Green (2010.) The more the human race tries to expand and create a bigger and better world for them, the more land and animals are lost to greed and hunger for power.

I listened to the world around me for a couple of days. Those two mornings while commuting I heard the sound of busy traffic, people coming from their Metro commute and the general day to day hustle and bustle. On campus the Gautrain can be heard by sitting in the gardens on campus, and in and out of class; people’s phones and other mobile devices rang and beeped relentlessly. When I was at home, sirens from police cars were coming past my street on one night, and people getting ready for the night around me created gentle background noise.

The noise of traffic and commuting, the noise of people travelling and the Gautrain are constant noises in my environment. They are sounds and background noise that is unavoidable if you live within a suburban and urban area. Thus, these are dominant sounds that can be viewed as the soundscape of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a consequence of accelerated technological development and the rapid growth of the human population, and the sounds of the Gautrain are an extension of both of those factors, due to the service being built to introduce a new and innovative form of transport in South Africa, and the answer to an increasing workforce that created a large need to commute between Pretoria and Johannesburg, thus the sounds of the Gautrain are part of the soundscape of the Anthropocene. The constant ringing and beeping of phones forms a part of the soundscape of the Anthropocene, as more and more mobile devices are created in shorter periods of time, which is an element of rapid technological growth. There is an increase in the amount of people on the roads, as the human population is radically growing, and the increase in traffic and traffic noise forms a part of the soundscape of the Anthropocene.

Listening to the birds in and around my environment for a few days was quite an eye opening experience. I realised with a sense of sadness that there are significantly fewer birds around me; compared to the amount of birds I would have seen when I was younger. I saw tons of doves, pigeons and plovers in primary school, and starlings used to be everywhere in the area where I used to live. Now, I can only hear a few hadedas during the day, and I didn’t see any other birds.

In response to the bird sounds that I (basically didn’t) hear, it becomes obvious that humans have negatively influenced the mix of bird sounds that can be heard. The expansion of residential, commercial and industrial areas by humans most likely has forced many bird species to live without proper habitats and thus have to migrate or simply die out. Understanding the effect of the extent of human expansion on the mix of bird sounds in the environment has urged me to make a more concerted effort to be aware of the problems in the environment around me, and how I might be able to help out through putting out bird houses, bird baths etc.

The bird sound that I did hear, the hadeda, represents a fewer number of bird species, as they were the only species that I did hear. The single bird species that I heard is a harsh truth of a dwindling biodiversity of bird species, as a result of the advent of the Anthropocene.

I spoke to my parents about the bird life that they had around them when they were younger. They had much more birds around their home and places like their primary school, compared to the number of birds I see in my home and education environment. My mother saw more birds like weavers and crested barbets. My father saw more plovers at his scout hall and more red chested cuckoos around his neighbourhood.

Talking to my parents was a harsh reminder that there are definitely much less bird species around in the present day, as opposed to when my parents were my age. This realisation calls attention to how humans, in creating more homes, roads and transport methods in order to make life better and easier, have caused a dwindling biodiversity in bird species over time, to the point that I sometimes cannot remember when last I heard a bird call.

In my own school days, there were definitely more bird species around. Plovers, for example, would nest on the school field and in the veld, and now I can’t recall when last I’ve seen a plover. There has definitely been a loss of biodiversity over time, observable from less and less bird species being heard and seen daily. I have witnessed a degradation of eco systems through veld and marsh areas being built over for residential purposes, and the Gautrain itself has now run through and eliminated eco systems.

The environment we live in, and the sounds that it produces, reveal that we are living deep within the Anthropocene. The daily sounds produced by cars and other methods of transport have become a part of our everyday life, which is has made an unnatural occurrence become natural to us. Technology has become a natural part of human living, and all the rings and beeps and sounds that are produced have become the sound track to the Anthropocene that we live in. The Anthropocene has become most observable in how there is a visible loss of biodiversity in bird species, and human behaviour and expansion is the cause of the loss of biodiversity.





Gisli, P et al. 2013. Reconceptualising the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research. Environmental Science & Policy 28:3-13.
Accessed 10 April 2016

Huffpost Green. 2010. UN Environment Programme: 200 Species Extinct Every Day, Unlike Anything Since Dinosaurs Disappeared 65 Million Years Ago. [Online.] Available from:
Accessed 10 April 2016

Steffen, W et al. 2011. The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369:842-867.
Accessed 10 April 2016

Waters, CN et al. 2016. The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science 351(6269):[sp].
Accessed 10 April 2016

Whitehouse, A. 2015. Listening to birds in the Anthropocene: the anxious semiotics of sound in a human-dominated world. Environmental Humanities 6:53-71.
Accessed 10 April 2016




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