A defining challenge of future science is to integrate the findings of different disciplines on the pressing human issues of climate change, biodiversity crisis, overexploitation of natural resources, and the sustainable persistence of human communities. It is at the intersection of these issues that the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology comes in. Through model-based and interpretive approaches, the institute examines the fundamental dynamics and dilemmas that have brought about the multiple crises of the "Anthropocene," humanity's proposed geological epoch, and explores their mutual conditions.
Embedded in this larger frame of reference, geoanthropology explores the concrete man-made conditions of the progressive destabilization of the Earth system, the systemic interactions between atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere with the newly emerged technosphere, possible tipping elements in this overall system and, consequently, the limits of socio-ecological carrying capacity and the resulting socio-economic and cultural response times.
The institute pursues cross-disciplinary research projects, e.g. on planetary urbanization, the global food system, global material, energy and information flows, and human-ecosystem dynamics, and aims to provide a collaborative synthesis service in which data and expertise from various sub-disciplines such as climate research, biodiversity research and the social sciences are brought together, modeled and interpreted (hub model).
The insights gained are intended to show scopes of action for societies, in particular how to deal with a rapid intensification of current trends and, at best, how to reverse them. The institute will help to identify possible intervention points and opportunities for crisis prevention and resolution, as well as coordinated transformation measures for sustainable and inclusive development.
Research topics at the institute range from the deep past to the deep future:
- How did humanity drive the emergence of the Anthropocene?
- How do humans and the Earth system interact in terms of system boundaries, thresholds, feedback loops, tipping points, path dependencies, transgressions, synergies, and structural barriers to sustainability?
- What are the associated opportunities and risks, including the potential collapse of ecological and sociotechnical systems?
The institute's synthetic approach requires close collaboration with a larger network of institutes and research centers that have the necessary specialized knowledge and relevant data sources for such a synthesis. Exchange and long-term cooperation with other institutions within and outside the Max Planck Society will therefore also be an important part of the institute's work.