The sound of the beast- Anthropocene


It moans and moved beneath us. We feel its impact. We embrace its horrors. Yet we are unaware of it. Anthropocene is the new age that humanity has moved into. This blog post discusses the impact and sounds of the Anthropocene.

Humans & Ecosystems:

Anthropocene is an age where humans play a global “role in shaping the earth… and their relationship with the natural environment” (Gisli et al, 2013). Humans have had a vast impact on the environment. According to an article in The Guardian (Human impact has pushed Earth into the Anthropocene, scientists say 2016) we are seeing a 75% extinction rate in our fauna and flora and other species, the sixth major extinction. Both Steffen and Waters write about the impact of agriculture and industrialisation and how it has impacted the environment. (Steffen et al 2011; Waters et al 2016). The impact of humans has effected marine life ecosystems near shorelines of cities (Waters et al 2016) As technologies increase, the rate of consumerism climbs with rapid growth and development across the globe these ecosystems are under threat by our everyday activities.

The sound of Anthropocene:

In a rushed society that is constantly moving we seldom stop and take note of our surroundings. By forcing yourself to stop and listen you will be surprised at what sounds lurk in the shadows. When the skies are dark and the air is crisp, soft chirps of birds are heard. It is still sleeping, but not for long. A slow hum begins. The muffled sound of the ocean of cars grows louder. It has awoken. By the time the sun rises Anthropocene is awake. The sounds of birds and chirping are drowned out by the sounds of cars as they drive past. The hum of electricity grows louder as appliances are switched on, kettles, TV’s, radios, fridges and showers. There is a constant hum in air. The hustle and bustle of people continuously on the move as they chatter on a disconnected device. These sounds become the soundscape of the Anthropocene. They fade into the surroundings of this mechanical jungle that have become the new nature. Regardless of the time of day there is always a soft hum, especially in the city and suburban areas. It is the boom of technology and man over taking technology.

The sound of birds: 

There is a stage of discomfort when listening to birds in the Anthropocene. These sounds are so outlandish to us that we feel like invaders in a foreign world. When you step into an environment that is filled with the sounds of birds or animals like zoos and bird parks the environment appears normal. There are trees and nature. But in the city these sounds seem alien. It is sad that only very few birds adapt to the changing environment. At home when I wake up early before the Anthropocene fully awakes I can hear the sound of only a few birds. At most I could distinguish four or five different birds. It saddens me that only five of what use to be a 400 bird species can be identified (Welcome to BirdLife South Africa – Gauteng 2016). One needs to ask the question as to where have these birds gone. Many new developments are built over delicate ecosystems that are home to many of these bird species.  The fact that I can only hear or identify 5 different birds is proof that the Anthropocene has an impact on the environment. By us as humans moving into these environments and areas that were originally inhabited by birds, we have disrupted this ecosystem. There is a dwindling bio diversity that is effected as humans expand and invade this natural environment. Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) has various projects to help protect and study the impacts on birds (Welcome to BirdLife South Africa – IBA Projects: Other 2016). Projects such as IBA and Birdlife are crucial for the preservation of our bird species.

Your yesterday, my history; my today, your history:

After an interview with my mother a key idea that I noted was how life has changed in its landscape. My mother grew up on the plots. As a child they were surrounded by nature. The sound of cows and animals filled the air. The nature had a voice as the wind rushed in the trees. Birds and bees flourished in an open and ‘free’ landscape. Yet with urbanisation there is no space for these. Instead the sounds of cars and hooters have overtaken this nature.

The interview drew attention to a very crutial aspect of how modern society is far removed from nature from birth. We are born into a generation that is raised in concrete not forests. We are surrounded with roads and not fields. This change in lifestyle has led to the disappearance of the ecosystem- a far removed concept from us. Nature has formed an afterthought rather then a key role in preserving our humanity and environment.

I remember the early days at school. We had the sounds of nature. Thousands of insects crawled the grounds. We would find bugs and spiders, butterflies and snakes. My school was next to a a sugarcane field so we would find weird and wonderful creatures in our classes every morning. In the city we have lost it. We see the same doves at our schools and varsities. The small creatures like butterflies have disappeared. The human footprint is evident in out cites and society today. Everywhere we look we see the impact of a growing city. Gisli writes how humanity is “refashioning of life on earth.” (Gisli, 2013). The footprint of this is evident every day when we look at new buildings rising up all around us.


If we look at how society has progressed and moved on we can see that the world that we know is moving into a new era. If we take time to listen we will hear not the sounds of silence, birds, and the rushing sounds of water or wind. Rather we hear the moans and hums of a machine. These sounds emulate that we are living in the Anthropocene. We are no longer surrounded with open landscapes of rolling hills and valleys or towering trees. Rather we are engulfed by a concrete high-rise and roads. Nature is shoved into a pot in the left hand corner of a room. The only green we see is from the traffic lights, billboards and garbage bags. Ecosystems have been covered and consumed by new developments that make way for the age of man.

Sources Consulted: 2016. Welcome to BirdLife South Africa – Gauteng. [O] Available at:                                     [Accessed 11 Apr. 2016].

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

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

Vaughan, A. 2016. Human impact has pushed Earth into the Anthropocene, scientists say. [O] Available:                                                                                                     Accessed 11-04-2016

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

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



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