Culture 3 min read

Planet Human: Earth Officially Enters the Anthropocene Era

Pending final approval, an expert panel proposes to officially declare the end of the Holocene and the beginning of a new epoch: the Anthropocene era.

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Over its 4.5 billion-year-long life, Earth has always been changing.

The rock strata, successively layered on each other, hold different fossils that act as witnesses of Earth’s long past, and which help geochronologists clearly define each geological period in time.

According to latest scientific adjustments, Homo Sapiens, the last-standing human species, appeared about 315,000 years ago. And over the course of this time, human civilization has evolved to a level never before seen on Earth (that we know of).

Now many scientists are suggesting that we’re living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.

The Atomic Marker of the Anthropocene

We’re currently living in the Holocene Epoch, or the Age of Man, which began about 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.

Now, another term that is tossed around in scientific circles is the Anthropocene, which is primarily characterized by human activity.

This 12,000-year window of fairly stable climate enabled the human civilization to develop, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the collective human impact started to disrupt Earth’s ecosystems and geology itself.

In fact, the human impact on the planet is so deep and widespread that a panel of scientists has suggested we should declare the Anthropocene as a new epoch of geological time.

On May 21, 29 of the 34 members forming the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) voted in favor of designating the Anthropocene as a new epoch.

The same number of members also voted for “the primary guide for the base of the Anthropocene be one of the stratigraphic signals around the mid-twentieth century of the Common Era.”

Rising population, greenhouse gases, global warming, extinction of species, deforestation, land degradation, sea level rising, pollution: all of these are indications of the end of the Holocene Era.

Sedimentary evidence of atomic bombing could mark the boundary between the two geological epochs for future chronobiologists.

Read More: Are Humans the First Industrial Species on Earth? The Silurian Hypothesis

The term “Anthropocene” is built on the root “anthropo”, which means “human”, and the suffix “-cene”, for “epoch” in geochronology. It was coined first in 1980 by American biologist Eugene F. Stoermer then popularized in the early 2000s to describe the human impact on the planet.

By 2021, the group will submit a formal proposal to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the scientific body supervising the official geologic time chart.

In their proposal, scientists have also to choose a site from where there’s a geologic marker that defines the start of the Anthropocene. They’re considering ten candidate sites around the world, one of them is the Great Barrier Reef.

As to the physical evidence that would be present in the sedimentary record to represent the start of the epoch, “the group is considering whether to choose the radionuclides that came from atomic-bomb detonations from 1945 until the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.”

Read More: The Earth is now Entering “The Plastic Age”

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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