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The poles as planetary places


Leane, E and Miles, G, The poles as planetary places, The Polar Journal, 7, (2) pp. 270-286. ISSN 2154-896X (2017) [Refereed Article]

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© 2017 Informa UK

DOI: doi:10.1080/2154896X.2017.1373913


Geodesy rarely makes headlines, but reports of human activities altering the orientation of the Earth’s rotation drew significant media attention in early 2016: "Melting ice sheets changing the way the earth wobbles on its axis, says Nasa" (The Guardian); "Global warming changing tilt of Earth’s spin axis" (Sydney Morning Herald); and "Climate Change is moving the North Pole" (National Geographic). The corresponding reports explained that melting ice sheets in both polar regions, along with drainage of continental ground water near the equator, had altered the distribution of water mass on the planet, resulting in a slight but measurable shift of its axis of rotation. While the position of the Earth’s axis relative to its surface has continuously moved small distances in both a cyclic and linear fashion since measurements began over a century ago, the likelihood that human activity was a source of the latest shift gave it new significance: "For the first time", reported the Sydney Morning Herald, "the growing ecological footprint of humans has caused the whole planet to change its tilt." At a time when we are still confronting the impact of our actions on the biosphere, this realization of our ability to inadvertently change the orientation of our planet in space, even by a tiny amount, gives a new dimension to the Anthropocene: we live not so much on, now, but in uneasy partnership with a body spinning through space. We are, in a limited, blind but measurable way, steering Spaceship Earth.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:South Pole, Anthropocene, place, planetary thinking, outer space
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Literary Studies
Research Field:Literary Studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Cultural Understanding
Objective Group:Communication
Objective Field:Languages and Literature
Author:Leane, E (Associate Professor Elizabeth Leane)
Author:Miles, G (Dr Graeme Miles)
ID Code:122107
Year Published:2017
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (FT120100402)
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2017-10-31
Last Modified:2018-03-13

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