Scientists say a new epoch marked by human impact—the Anthropocene—began in 1950s

A group of scientists argue that human impact on the Earth has been so significant since the mid-20th century, that this period should be designated as a new geologic epoch, dubbed the Anthropocene.

Defining the Epoch: The Anthropocene, a term combining Greek words for “human” and “new”, is believed to have started between 1950 and 1954.
* Scientists say that evidence of fossil fuel burning, nuclear weapons detonation and the disposal of fertilizers and plastics capture the human impact on the planet during this period.
* Crawford Lake, near Toronto, Canada, has been proposed as a historic marker due to its detailed preservation of human activity impact.

Historic Comparison: The power of human impact is likened to the meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs and started the Cenozoic Era, or the “age of mammals”.
* However, humans are said to have started a new epoch, which is a smaller geologic time period than an era.

Proposed Investigations: The working group plans to determine a specific start date for the Anthropocene by examining plutonium levels in Crawford Lake.
* The lake was chosen due to clear evidence preserved in sediment layers, reflecting annual human activity effects on soil, atmosphere and biology.

Long-Term Implications: The proposal still requires approval from three different geological groups before being officially recognized.
* The Anthropocene epoch would follow the Holocene Epoch, which began about 11,700 years ago.
* The decision to classify it as an epoch instead of a more significant ‘period’ is due to the persisting permanent ice on Earth’s poles, but this could be reassessed if climate change continues to cause polar ice to disappear.

Note of Caution: Several scientists emphasized the hubris of human power, warning of potential tragic outcomes if the damaging impact of human activities, particularly climate change, is not addressed.

View original article on NPR

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