Humans have changed the Earth so much that some scientists think we have entered a new geological age.
Planet Earth has entered a new epoch dubbed the Anthropocene because of the extent of humanity’s impact on the planet, according to a group of experts.
An international working group set up to consider the question voted by 34 to zero, with one abstention, that the Anthropocene was real in a geological sense.
The Anthropocene defines Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans.
The word combines the root “anthropo”, meaning “human” with the root “-cene”, the standard suffix for “epoch” in geologic time.
The increasing temperature, soaring sea levels, ash from fossil fuels, plastic waste, an increase in erosion, the spread of animals’ species across the world and radioactive particles from the nuclear bomb tests cause permanent changes in the Earth’s rocks, say the scientists. It is believed that Earth has entered a new time chapter since July 16, 1945.
The scientists are still thinking of a date that can be chosen as the “Golden Spike,” that marks the boundary between the Holocene and the Anthropocene period. They believe it to be in the mid-20th century. The International Union of Geological Sciences has to agree to the experts’ recommendation to formally declare and enter the textbooks. The Leicester University issued a statement regarding the working group’s “provisional recommendation” which said that the Anthropocene concept is geologically real. It also indicated that the phenomenon is of sufficient scale and is a part of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart, also known as the Geological Time Scale.
Scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer first suggested this idea in the year 2000. Their reports stated that human impact had left clear traces on the stratigraphic record for many years before the beginning of the Holocene.
The report revealed that these changes to the earth’s system intensified the Great Acceleration of the mid-20th century. Changes to the earth’s system include rates of erosion and sedimentation, chemical worries to the carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other element cycles. The list also includes global climate and sea level changes and unusual species invasions across the earth.
Crutzen and Stoermer state that these changes are geologically long-lasting and their effects are irreversible. According to them, these processes have left signals in plastic, aluminum and concrete particles, artificial radionuclides, carbon, and nitrogen isotype pattern, fly ash particulate matter and other biological remains.
Dr. Colin Waters, the secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group, compares the changes humans made on Earth to the end of the last ice age which is around 11,500 years ago, the start of the Holocene period. Waters says that in the last century, humans have had a huge impact and as a result, we are taking our planet away from the natural climate changes. We are reversing the trend of global temperature.
The working group of experts is looking for evidence to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene. Professor Clive Hamilton, an ethicist at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, says that we should not welcome the idea of the Anthropocene. In fact, we should be frightened at the thought of it.