digest | Have humans ushered-in a new geological epoch?

Experts say civilization is leading today's evolution.
April 10, 2019

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~ by definition
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Humanity’s impact on Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch — called the Anthropocene — needs to be declared, according to an official expert group, who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress, sponsored by the International Union of Geological Sciences.

Next time you eat a chicken wing, pay attention to where you discard the left-over bones. You might be telling future archaeologists about a very specific moment in time — when human beings became so dominant over the planet that we began to create a new geological epoch to reflect our collective influence.

This new time period of vast human influence is known as the Anthropocene, and according to a cadre of experts called the Anthropocene Working Group, that epoch has already been under way for more than 60 years.

In August 2016 the Anthropocene Working Group recommended to the International Geological Congress that geologists declare the 1950s the end of our current epoch, the Holocene — and the beginning of a new one, the Anthropocene. The Holocene began approx. 12,000 years ago, after the close of the last major ice age. While the previous epoch, the Pleistocene, lasted for nearly 1.8 million years.

The current Holocene epoch is the 12,000 years of stable climate (since the last ice age) — when all human civilization developed on Earth. But since the mid-20th century, there has been an extreme acceleration of:

  • carbon dioxide emissions
  • build-up of industrial waste + human rubbish
  • radioactive contamination
  • sea level rise
  • shoreline erosion
  • changes to the natural eco-systems of plants + animals
  • land transformation by deforestation + development

These changes all mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene epoch must give way to the Anthropocene epoch.

What is marking the Anthropocene as a new epoch? Some signals include plastic pollution, concrete, and the soot produced by power plants. But the biggest may be the radioactive elements that were released around the globe during mid-century nuclear testing — hence the 1950s delineation.

Humans also appear to have set off a major extinction event: causing species to die-off en masse across the globe, the 6th extinction in Earth’s history.

And with the creation and proliferation of the domestic chicken, now the most common bird in the world — your dinner plate could be holding the bones that will become (for future human + computer intelligences) what dinosaur skeletons are to us: evidence of a long-departed species that once ruled its planet.

with materials from: World Science Foundation

by definition | the Anthropocene epoch

  • The Anthropocene epoch is the name of a proposed geological epoch
  • it may soon enter the official geologic time scale of Earth
  • it refers to a time in which humanity permanently changed our planet
  • we’re still officially in the Holocene epoch
  • the Holocene epoch began 12,000 years ago after the last ice age
  • history experts say we should now change our current epoch to the name Anthropocen
  • the word Anthropocene: comes from the Greek language word “anthropo” meaning man
  • the word Anthropocene: comes from the Greek language word “cene” meaning new
  • experts have different opinion about when humanity caused a lasting impact on Earth’s geology
  • experts have commonly settled on a time near year 1950

with materials from: Daily Mail

on the web | pages

Intl. Union of Geological Sciences | home
Intl. Union of Geological Sciences • Anthropocene Working Group | home

about | the Intl. Geological Congress

The International Geological Congress is a non-profit scientific + educational organization whose meetings are held in collaboration with — and sponsored by — the International Union of Geological Sciences. The purpose of the meeting is to encourage research in Earth sciences world-wide.

about | the Anthropocene project

The Anthropocene Project is a multi-disciplinary body of work from world renowned collaborators Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal. Combining art, film, virtual reality + augmented reality, scientific research — the project investigates human influence on the conditions, dynamic, and future of planet Earth.


(n) The proposed current geological epoch, in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change.

“We’ve reached an unprecedented moment in planetary history. Humans now change the Earth and its processes more than all other natural forces combined. For example: climate anomalies, extinctions of plants + animals, invasive species, junk techno-fossils, planet anthro-turbation, land terra-forming, water re-direction — are all part of the indelible human signature.”

on the web | pages

the Anthropocene project | film
the Anthropocene project | home
the Anthropocene project | museum
the Anthropocene project | interactive
the Anthropocene project | books

watch | documentary film

production: Mercury Films • studio
production: the Anthropocene project • org
film title: Anthropocene: the human epoch
year: 2018

watch | film trailer
watch | purchase film

on the web | reading

the Guardian | The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age
deck: Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to new epoch.
deck: Our new epoch defined by: nuclear tests, plastic pollution, domesticated chicken.

Daily Mail | Dawn of the Anthropocene
deck: Humans have tipped the Earth into a new geological period.
deck: Now experts believe it started around 1950.

on the web | reading

Slate | Humans produce so much junk we are creating a new geological layer
deck: The techno-fossils we leave behind will create a mark on the planet.

the Economist | Human artifacts as techno-fossils
deck: Picking over the traces.

Scientific American | Will mines, tunnels, and drilling scar Earth permanently?
deck: Human activity has left permanent marks on the planet.

World Science Foundation | Have humans ushered-in a new geological epoch?

— notes —

IUGS = the Intl. Union of Geological Sciences
intl. = international

[ story file ]

story title: digest | Have humans ushered-in a new geological epoch?
deck: Experts say civilization is leading today’s evolution.
year: 2019
section: digest

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