Newcastle University Anthropocene Research Group aims to analyse and design sustainable transdisciplinary responses to intensifying global change

Anthropocene Research at Newcastle University aims to address four vital questions
  • “What is the Anthropocene and why does it matter to me?”
  • “How is our planet changing?”
  • “How do we better enable our communities to be resilient?”
  • “How do we work together to enable real and meaningful change?

Effectively addressing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demands a coupled human and natural systems approach. In turn this requires understanding of feedbacks between these human and natural systems. Integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines is essential to understand and better manage complex systems like rivers and deltas.


Our approach to Anthropocene research emphasizes Newcastle University’s definition of sustainability: ‘Enough, for all, forever’.

At Newcastle University we continually challenge ourselves, asking not just
“what are we good AT?”, but also “what are we good FOR?”

Addressing global societal challenges, our Anthropocene work aims to transform dominant modes of thinking, not just within researcher communities, but also among the general public, policy-makers, non-governmental agencies, and industry and the media. This is known as ‘Global Systems Science’, where our approach is to integrate knowledge from the natural, engineering and social sciences and apply it to real-life situations. In this way we can begin to address major challenges that are beyond the remit of any one traditional discipline.

We aim to achieve this integration and application in a transformative way by concentrating on identifiable ‘nodes’ (Helbing 2013), where threat, risk and opportunity coincide, and thus where our most innovative solutions can be targeted for maximum effectiveness.


‘Holocene’ thinking was about ‘experts’ and policymakers developing and holding information within a hierarchical relationship, exacerbating divisions between specialist fields of knowledge and raising barriers between the academic disciplines, especially between the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

In privileging the ‘expert’ over the ‘non-expert’ and favouring an overly narrow approach 'observe, react, observe’, traditional ways of dealing with environmental and societal issues were to design solutions FOR people without engaging WITH people.

We seek to co-create knowledge and make information and datasets as widely accessible and understandable to as wide a sector of society as possible.

The transformation to the Anthropocene in environmental terms is already with us. New approaches straddling traditional disciplinary boundaries, and in how we think, plan and organize, are aimed at smarter use and stewardship of planetary resources. The intended outcome of our work is dynamic solution-building via new and exciting technologies.

“The anthropocene is a way of reimagining the world.  The power is in the idea.  Much as the renaissance and the enlightenment changed the way people thought, the anthropocene could shape thinking going forward. We can rethink the way the world works - but only if we want to.”

(David Biello, 2016)