Welcome to the Anthropocene Epoch!?

As a species, we’ve been on Earth for less than half of 1% of its existence … but our impact on the planet has been profound. So profound,  some scientists are suggesting that we name our time the Anthropocene Epoch, in recognition of humanity’s lasting effect on all aspects of the environment.

The term anthropocene was first championed around 2000 by Paul Crutzen, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995.  Crutzen posits that the Anthropocene period began in the late 18th century, when growing industry and the invention of the steam engine began to increase emissions of CO2 and methane, as shown by analysis of polar ice. The Guardian reports that the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the official designator of epochs, is considering officially adopting the term to describe our time. It will be some time before any official designation is agreed.

In case we doubt humans’ impact on the land, sea and air, a recent Economist article, entitled “Welcome to the Anthropocene” gives this amazing statistic: “A single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tons of earth — twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year.”

No matter the label, human impact on the environment is greatly amplified since the Industrial Revolution. Human activities around energy and food production that leave their mark on the geological record include mining, damming, agriculture, deforestation, leading to air and water pollution, elevated carbon dioxide levels and reduced biodiversity.

The Guardian quotes Professor Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland: “We don’t know what is going to happen in the Anthropocene, but we need to think differently and globally, to take ownership of the planet.”

Since 1972, World Environment Day has been observed on June 5. Today, as thousands engage in actions across the globe that draw attention to our negative planetary impact, a change of mind is essential, no matter what we call these times. As the Economist put it: “Too many natural scientists embrace the comforting assumption that nature can be studied, indeed should be studied, in isolation from the human world, with people as mere observers.” Like it or not, we are having an effect on earth’s complex systems, of which we are a part. The first step is to accept that fact. The next step is to ask how we will deal with this responsibility.

 

Photo: Coal mine 12-03-08 © Mayumi Terao via iStockphoto

87 comments

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer2 years ago

The natural world is a divine trust for which all members of the human family —as the stewards of the planet’s vast resources—are responsible.
www.bahai.org
The article was written over 4 years ago, and I am just reading it now, September 2015.

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Danuta W.
Danuta W6 years ago

What a great article! Thank you!

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Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun6 years ago

Great article. Thank you for this.

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Tanyaisa P.
Tanyaisa P6 years ago

VERY INFORMATIVE ARTICLE.....THANK YOU. WE NEED TO DELVE INTO THE ISSUES, ESPECIALLY THE NEW TECHNOLOGY TODAY TO GAIN A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW OUR WORLD WORKS. THE WWW HAS INDEED CHANGED OUR DAILY LIVES.

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Robert S.
Robert S6 years ago

The "Internet Epoch" might be an even better name. It has changed eveything!

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Emily Drew
Emily Drew6 years ago

humans are going to be the end of me i tell you. And probably the end of the world too

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Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Plant trees. Raise dual use meat/dairy cattle on intensively managed perennial pasture. Replace coal with wind, solar and geothermal. How about bio-diesel from algae.

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colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

to many of the comments here strike me as "durhhh how doz science werk?" with your fake Latin, and assumption that all dinosaurs had pea brains. "stegosaurs was stupid because it had a tiny brain, but don't you dare say a snake is dumb, I know mine loves me"

Humans have a diffrent awareness and level of thought. I need proof of how abstract "the others" can accomplish. if parts of our brain exist that let us appreciate "beauty", but a deer dosen't. then "a sunset means little to a deer in terms of aesthetics"

it is only nature for an elephant to wreck a tree to eat, but when we wreck a tree to build something with it. "OMG even demons are kinder than that"
when feral animals destroy a landcape they cannot stop and think "wait, I am a goat, I do not belong on this island, I should share food with the tortoises that those wreched humans almost ate to extinction even though without humans I would not be here, nor would my ancestors"

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090127/full/news.2009.61.html damn humans. we slaughter goats to save a "turtle" we almost ate into extinction.
what happend to Kindness. OMG horrible.

(if I were serious about that comment, you'd all jump my bones, but I am not, so you'll want to kill me)

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Randy Robertson
Randy Robertson6 years ago

I think it will be very short by the way we act!!!

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Nabil Farag
Nabil Farag6 years ago

Very Good Thank you
Noble

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