The Anthropocene Reviewed, Reviewed

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Emily Ma, Journalist/Editor

In January of 2018, New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All The Way Down, John Green embarked on a new literary journey with the release of his podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed. Along with being a young adult novelist, John Green is also known for co-founding the educational YouTube channel Crash Course with his brother, Hank Green.
In an introduction to his podcast, John Green details a lifelong fascination with reviews — reviews of coffee shops, movies, medications — he found the vast territory encompassed by astonishing reviews. In his free time, he wrote up his very first reviews for what would become The Anthropocene Reviewed, on Canada geese and Diet Dr Pepper. One day, while discussing the possible creation of a set of reviews, Hank Green said, “The Anthropocene … Reviewed.” John Green explains the Anthropocene as being “a proposed term for the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity.” The meaning of The Anthropocene Reviewed, then, is the reviewing of the world we live in, and all that we share the world with. It is fitting, as each episode typically contains the history of two different subjects, as well as their significance to Green’s life. The subjects of the podcast episodes vary greatly, from an Icelandic hot dog stand to Monopoly to the smallpox vaccine.
I first encountered The Anthropocene Reviewed a year ago, through the YouTube video featuring an animated version of Green’s review of the sycamore tree. The video was presented in a style similar to TED-Ed’s educational videos, and provided my sixth-grade self with a sense of comforting calmness I had not experienced much before. At that time, I was in isolation due to COVID-19, and had not met many of my friends in nearly a year. The Anthropocene Reviewed filled the hours I spent alone in my room with Green’s soothing voice, and I dedicated hours upon hours to listening to him tell the tales of the world around me. The podcast filled me with a certain excitement, as not only was I learning, but I was having fun. I considered myself then as someone who enjoyed school because it was not particularly difficult, but never as someone who actively enjoyed learning. But when listening to The Anthropocene Reviewed, I did. Green spoke quietly, but his words were loud.
Distance learning was a difficult time for all of us. I am fortunate to live in a stable household, surrounded by a supportive and affluent community. No one I love has passed away from COVID. Still, I lost two years of my life to the threat of disease, confused and lonelier than I would like to admit. I am happy for everyone that we are no longer in quarantine and are in the midst of recovery. It was a terribly frightening time that nobody was quite sure how to deal with. When I look back, I remember the fear everyone was trapped in, but I also remember something else: I remember The Anthropocene Reviewed filling the silence isolation brought me as I spent my time drawing or lying in bed. Listening to John Green reminded me that there is a world outside, even if I could not see it. Even if I could not go.
The Anthropocene Reviewed is a book now. Published on May 18, 2021, the book has received great critical acclaim and financial success. With new and revised reviews, I find the book to be just as satisfactory as the podcast. When I first found The Anthropocene Reviewed, I thought I was simply learning about trees and geese. Only now do I see the profound effect the podcast has on me. Thanks to The Anthropocene Reviewed, I not only have a broadened expanse of knowledge regarding the universe, but also regarding myself.
I give The Anthropocene Reviewed five stars.

  • The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet