Now we’ve done it. We’ve gone and changed things too much. A group of geologists now think that mankind has modified the earth so much in the last 200 years that they have just formally published a paper designating a NEW geologic EPOCH! Let me explain and bear with me a bit on the necessary background information.
Geologists classify the roughly 4 billion years of earths geologic history by a nicely organized scheme using 4 separate EONS (very large chunks of time). The latest EON (the Phanerozoic) is broken down into the familiar ERA subdivisions the Paleozoic (ancient life), Mesozoic (middle life) and Cenozoic (modern life). The latest ERA, (the Cenozoic) is divided into 2 periods the last of which is the Neogene that covers 23 million years ago until today. The Neogene is further divided into 4 EPOCH, the last of which is the Holocene which includes the last 11 thousand years. The Holocene is where man has left most of his imprint on the planet since the last ice age and that EPOCH (Holocene) continues to this day. All of our recorded/oral history is within the Holocene. We live in the Holocene.
The argument is as follows: mankind’s numbers first approached a billion individuals about 200 years ago. During that time, our influences have dramatically rearranged the landscape. Our societies have changed the course of rivers, altered the physical and chemical nature of ocean sediments, and surface deposits and generally reshaped the planets biosphere. The claim is that man’s influence now dramatically outpaces the course of natural change. Because of those drastic changes these geologists note, they have suggested to the International Commission of Stratigraphy, that they should mark the end of the current EPOCH (the Holocene) and officially start the a new EPOCH. This new epoch would be called the Anthropocene.
It is an interesting time we live in. There is no question that humans are one of the big environmental forces on earth. Stepping back from that for a second, I sense a strong political message in this however ranking right up there with Global Warming message. There is big money in helping people stop our polluting ways. Special interests abound as a result and many sensationalist (scientific) stories crop up from time to time that tend to support those new industries. Keep your eye on this story to see if the new EPOCH actually makes it through committee and into the science text books. It will be an indicator of which way our society is leaning and which way the money is flowing.
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