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Welcome to the Anthropocene Epoch!?

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.

 

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

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86 comments

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12:24AM PDT on Jul 19, 2011

What a great article! Thank you!

3:55AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Great article. Thank you for this.

10:03AM PDT on Jun 19, 2011

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.

7:37PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

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

7:04PM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

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

12:01PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

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.

7:56AM PDT on Jun 7, 2011

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)

6:24AM PDT on Jun 7, 2011

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

6:23AM PDT on Jun 7, 2011

Very Good Thank you
Noble

5:52AM PDT on Jun 7, 2011

Hope I am on the correct subject in the correct place.. Going back in time and starting reforestation is not difficult at all. It only needs a lot of seeds of easy to grow trees. Something like 'Ipil Ipil' which does not need any care at all. Good fodder, good manure and fast growing with lots of seeds in pods to multiply on it's own.. Throw the seeds during the rainy season in a barren area. If one mature tree can be transplanted and looked after to grow quickly it's shade will protect the sprouts. If the rain continues for sometime they will come up in no time, otherwise a little watering is necessary at the start. Thus you keep extending the land area as the trees grow. There must be many other varieties of trees that do not need any care at all depending on the climate. Once they grow all other varieties of trees could be introduced to grow in their shade. The deserts in the Middle East have been turned into a riot of color with beautiful parks and greenery everywhere. Whatever Epoch it is, reforestation means clean air, more water and enough room for animals to live free with no one interfering like we have been doing for so long now. I saw on Nat Geo two tigers being taken to Africa to start a new breeding program in the wilds. Playing God must stop no matter how good the intentions are. Let nature take over with a little help from us here and there. Green thumbs will know that reforestation is not a difficult thing at all.

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