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Dot Earth

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Dr. Dick van der Wateren


Global Change

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The Anthropocene, a new geological epoch

22.05.2011, Age: 3777 days

One day after the World was predicted to end, we are still there. A good moment to reflect on how humans are changing the world in an unprecedented way. In response to these changes, scientists at a meeting in London suggested to officially name the present period the Anthropocene and give it the stratigraphical status of epoch.

Exactly ten days before the predicted Judgement Day, a conference by the Geological Society discussed the status of the Anthropocene, a term first proposed in 2000 by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen. An international group of scientists including Crutzen argues that humans have become a major biogeophysical agent changing many aspects of the Earth. They include climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, stratospheric ozone depletion, biodiversity loss and many more.

These changes, they argue, are similar in magnitude to transitions from one geological epoch to the next, like the Cretaceous/Tertiary, 65 million years ago. Now, the Anthropocene follows the Holocene, the epoch starting 10,000 years ago after the the last ice age, which witnessed the rise of modern humans, agriculture and the Industrial Revolution.

Will Steffen, Jacques Grinevald, Paul Crutzen, and John McNeill. The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A March 13, 2011 369 (1938) 842-867; doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0327 article>> In:

Special Issue of Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A. Theme Issue 'The Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time?' compiled and edited by Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz, Alan Haywood and Mike Ellis. March 13, 2011; 369 (1938). 

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