With 7 billion humans and counting living on Earth, all of whom have the increasing capacity to build, shape and often devastate the planet, scientists are now starting to agree that the planet is entering a new geological age shaped by humanity’s impact. According to New Scientist, the idea that humans have the ability to make significant impacts on Earth’s structure has been around for a long time, but were mostly dismissed by geologists who thought humans could never make an imprint on the Earth that was so long lasting it would never be erased.
But over the past few decades, scientists have been changing their minds to some extent, as it is becoming increasingly clear that human activities can have a significant geological impact. New Scientist notes that science writer Andrew Revkin has called it the Anthrocene; John Curnutt of the US Geological Survey put forth the name Homogenocene due to the transplanting of species around the world; and marine biologist, Daniel Pauly came up with the Myxocene – a world with oceans filled with slime and jellyfish due to overfishing and pollution.
Respected Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen may have hit a scientific home run when he suggested we are leaving the Holocene era of post-glacial stability behind and entering the Anthropocene epoch, which will be shaped by humans. Crutzen’s idea has led to a commission of the Geological Society of London, followed by the Anthropocene Working Group, all of which have the job of formalizing our foray into the new epoch and adding another notch on the Geologic Time Scale – which is something not done lightly.
The evidence that we’re entering a human-shaped geological epoch? Thousands of artificial minerals used to create cities and infrastructure; oceans scraped of all life and polluted with plastics that have even started forming new rocks of their own; and open pit mines that can be seen from space, along with mine shafts and holes in the Earth’s surface so deep and wide they might as well be permanent. Add to that the artificial and toxic chemicals we create, nuclear waste, and unprecedented species extinction – and it seems the Anthropocene may be upon us after all.
Via New Scientist