Anthropocene

Geologists have a naming system for the different ages of the Earth, from far-distant Pre-Cambrian to the present era, the Holocene. The eras are characterized by particular sequences of strata (that is, layers of rock). In the last generation, we have come to understand that the cumulative human impact on our planet is huge, not so different in scale from the geologic forces that continually shape and reshape our world. In recognition of the impact, the American biologist Eugene Stoermer coined the term “Anthropocene” in the 1970s. The word essentially says this is the era of human impact. The term was not used much until the Dutch Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen popularized it in 2000. The concept has been widely adopted, although there are different interpretations of when it started. Some definitions use the first nuclear weapons test as the starting point. Other definitions see the Anthropocene beginning with the start of the Industrial Revolution. The idea remains controversial. Some geologists argue that compared to basic geological forces, human impact has been small. What cannot be argued against is that the cumulative human impact on the earth, its atmosphere, ecosystems and water is intensifying.

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