Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Anthropocene

Anthropocene word origin
Anthropocene is a 21st century term popularized by atmospheric chemist and nobel laureate Paul Crutzen for what will perhaps be recognized as a new geologic epoch.

The roots of the word are anthropo- for man and cene for new.

No date is recognized as the start of the Anthropocene, but atmospheric data seems to point to the early 19th century industrialization that occurred during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Other scientists indicate it should start with the Atomic Age of the 1950s.

The Anthropocene was preceded by, or is encompassed by, the Holocene which, in turn, was preceded by the Pleistocene

The Holocene began about 11,700 years ago and includes the growth of the human species. The Pleistocene lasted from about 2,588,000 to the Holocene and spanned the most recent period of repeated glaciations.

Shanghai at sunset
The Anthropocene is marked by the characteristics of:
  • over-population (fourfold increase in the 20th century alone);
  • the greenhouse effect;
  • warming temperatures;
  • melting glaciers;
  • rising sea levels;
  • frequent weather extremes; and
  • overall climate disruption.
All of these characteristics are widely held to be linked to human activities.
"Two billion years ago, cyanobacteria oxygenated the atmosphere and powerfully disrupted life on earth. But they didn’t know it. We’re the first species that’s become a planet-scale influence and is aware of that reality. That’s what distinguishes us."
Andrew Revkin