On Thursday, 24 geoscientists officially announced that we’ve entered a new geologic era. Why? Because humans are “altering the planet, including long-term global geologic processes, at an increasing rate.” This means the end of the Holocene geologic epoch and the birth of the “Anthropocene.” Naomi Oreskes, a geologically trained Harvard historian of science and one of the study’s authors recently discussed the implications of the findings.
The Washington Post reports:
“’In a way it’s a thought experiment… We’re imagining what a future geologist will see when he or she looks at the rock record. But it’s not that difficult a thought experiment to do, because so many of these signals are already present’…Quite unlike other subdivisions of geological time, the implication of formalizing the Anthropocene reach well beyond the geological community. Not only would this represent the first instance of a new epoch having been witnessed firsthand by advanced human societies, it would be one stemming from the consequences of their own doing.’”
The shift was first suggested in 2000 by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize winning atmospheric chemist who is part of the group, aka the “Anthropocene Working Group,”that conducted the most recent study. While this isn’t a definitive proclamation—it is far more complicated than that—the AWG says the era began after the Industrial Revolution. They estimate that we entered the “Anthropocene” sometime in-between 1945 and 1964:
“The authors suggest that around this time, a confluence of major trends—population explosion, new technological advances, and booming rates of consumption—triggered changes that will be unmistakable in geologic records…It’s all of these changes, at roughly the same time, that mark the onset of the Anthropocene. ‘It’s not just carbon dioxide, and it’s not just in Europe and the United States,’ said Harvard’s Oreskes. ‘It’s this whole set of things that reflect human economic activity basically since World War II.’”
To read more, head over to The Washington Post