Living in The Times of the Anthropocene: Science Engagement Responsibilities

Living in The Times of the Anthropocene: Science Engagement Responsibilities 2016-10-27T13:14:55+00:00

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Science Talk
Dr Hester du Plessis, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

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We are officially living in the Holocene epoch during which we experienced 11,700 years of stable climate. However, humanity’s impact on the earth is so profound that scientists are proposing that the earth is entering a new geological unit within this Geological Time Scale, referred to as the Anthropocene. This is due to anthropogenic changes associated with erosion and sediment movements, colonialization, agriculture, urbanisation, ocean acidification and rampant industrial driven carbon emissions.

Scientists are looking for evidence of the Anthropocene within geological divisions, defined by prospective geological spikes formed by sediment from concrete, chicken bones, radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests, tough unburned carbon spheres emitted by power stations, plastic pollution, aluminium and concrete particles and high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in soils derived from artificial fertiliser.

Not only is the Anthropocene considered as a new geographical force, but it is also creating a new research paradigm that will bring science and society, through the political role of science communication, close together. In this ‘new’ space we would like to discuss the 4 psychological and societal spikes that should be considered as humanity’s main contributions to the changing climate: the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the number of species extinctions, the level of human material consumption and the rampart growth of the global human population (Ayres 2016).

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duplessisDr Hester du Plessis
Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

Dr Hester du Plessis is a Chief Research Specialist and Head of Science Engagement and Gender within the Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA) unit at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa. Shehas a MTech in Fine and Applied Art with the title IKS and technology transfer systems among artisans in India and South Africa from the Tshwane University of Technology (formerly the Technikon Pretoria). In 2002 she obtained a PhD in Philosophy at the University of South Africa (UNISA): The role of women in design, indigenous knowledge systems and science during technology transfer processes.

Before joining the HSRC on the 1st of June 2016(date) she was Head of the Humanity Faculty at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA). She previously worked at RIA, HSRC in the capacity of Senior Researcher and Head of Science Communication. She was a Senior Researcher the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), University of Johannesburg (UJ) from 2002 to 2012. In 2007 she held a Research Chair in Design Education and Innovation at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India in the Design Vision Centre (DVC), a Centre of Excellence that provides integrated design support infrastructure through three labs: the High Performance Visualization lab (HPV lab), the Rapid Product Development Lab (RPD lab) and the Mind to Market lab (MTM lab).She participated in research with the National Institute for Science and Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) as well as the unit for Science Communication through Multi-Media (SCM); National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in New Delhi, India from 2000 onwards. She serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal for Scientific Temper at NISCAIR. She is a Fellow at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), South Africa, where she was the main author of a book publication: The concept and application of transdisciplinarity in intellectual discourse and research (2014) and editor of the book: The philosophy of Chinese civilization: the rise, decline and rise of civilizations (2015).

Her areas of research interest include: science communication, gender, a transdisciplinary approach to research, philosophy and the philosophy of science and the global civilizational project.

Dr du Plessis’s publication record spans the authoring and co-authoring of 3 book publications and more than 60 conference presentations, 11 book chapters and 7 journal articles. Her most recent journal article, published in the Quarterly Journal of China Media Research. 2015 looks at The media and science communication; exploring the complexity of communicating science in South Africa.