Peter Engelke, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and J.R. McNeill, professor of history at Georgetown University, are co-authors of the new book The Great Acceleration.
The first Earth Day, held April 22, 1970, was designed to draw popular attention to environmental causes and the need to protect nature. It succeeded. At age 46, Earth Day continues to focus our minds on preserving the natural world, if only for a brief moment each year.
But what if a basic assumption about our planet, one that we all make on Earth Day and every other day, is wrong? What if, in 2016, we no longer inhabit the Earth we once did? What if the nature we seek to protect has already been profoundly altered — by us? Would that undercut the logic of Earth Day?
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