Geologists press for recognition of Earth-changing ‘human epoch’

A decade ago, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen first suggested we were living in the “Anthropocene,” a new geological epoch in which humans had altered the planet. Now, in an article for Yale Environment 360, Crutzen and a coauthor explain why adopting this term could help transform the perception of our role as stewards of the Earth.

  • You can read that Yale Environment article here (published 24 Jan 2011)

(Oh and lest you wonder, he knows what he is on about. Paul J. Crutzen is an atmospheric chemist who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research on ozone-depleting chemicals. From 1980 to 2000.)

Anyway, today’s UK Guardian also has an article all about this here. Here are a couple of extracts to tempt you into clicking on over there to read it all …

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

In the past, geological changes on a scale big enough to merit a new epoch have been the result of events such as the eruption of a supervolcano or a catastrophic meteor strike – things a lawyer might describe as acts of God. Now, instead of being just another one of the millions of species on our planet, humans have become the determining factor – the guiding, controlling species – and many of our changes will leave a permanent mark in the rocks.

“The fossil record will reveal a massive loss of plant and animal species, and also the scale of invasive species – how we’ve distributed animals and plants across the globe,”

So is this a good thing or not? I’d like to suggest that the recognition that our current age is one in which our activities are having a profound impact upon the planet is vitally important. Why? Well because doing so means that we can then begin to think differently and globally.

We have a responsibility for the shape of things and what is happening, so we need to come to terms with that. Denying the reality of what we are doing is not just foolish, it is utterly insane, the evidence already there. Accepting it, means that we can start to think longer more sustainable thoughts.

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