New Historian

Evidence Mounting for Beginning of Anthropocene Epoch

Dawn in the Anthropocene

<![CDATA[Many scientists argue that the latest geological epoch of Earth’s history – coined the Anthropocene Epoch – has already begun thanks to the actions of humanity. While the claim is met with some controversy, new evidence is mounting that the new epoch has indeed begun, according to a new research report published by a group of international scientists. The influence humanity has had on the planet in regards to the geological record is undeniable according to the scientists. The now widespread accumulation of nuclear fallout, fly ash, plastic, concrete and aluminum in the ground is indicative of the beginning of the Anthropocene and can be traced back to the middle of the twentieth century, the research results say. When combined with other persistent environmental changes brought about by man, such as higher greenhouse gas emissions, the scientists say that the 11,700-year Holocene Epoch – the geological era that began with the end of the last Ice Age - has now come to an end. Humans have long been an influence on the environment around them, according to the British Geological Survey’s Dr. Colin Waters. However, unlike the gradual changes that characterized the Holocene, such as incremental domestication of the land to heighten food production and the slow but steady proliferation of urban settlement, the Anthropocene is differentiated by how rapidly new materials have begun to spread across the globe, the scientist remarked. Plastics, concrete, and other man-made materials have all begun to leave their mark in the sediment record, and study co-author Jan Zalasiewicz from the University of Leicester stated in a press release that all this, plus other evidence collected by the research team such as the radionuclides accumulating in the soil from the numerous international atomic bomb tests from 1945 through the 1980s, provides “an underlying reality” to the concept that the Anthropocene has not only begun but is in full swing. Meanwhile the Holocene Extinction, which is considered to be an ongoing extinction event of many global species that have fared less than well after coming into contact with humanity, is increasingly being referred to as the Anthropocene Extinction. Zalasiewicz is chairperson of the Anthropocene Working Group, the 24-member-strong coalition that collectively authored the new research study. Many well-respected scientists were also involved, including Group secretary Dr. Waters and his colleague from the British Geological Survey Michael Ellis. Matt Edgeworth and Mark Williams, also from the University of Leicester, joined Zalasiewicz as well. The Group is set to continue its research into 2016 in order to gather additional evidence to cement its position that the Anthropocene has indeed begun. The coalition of scientists and researchers hope to formalize the new geological epoch and provide a more exact definition and characterization. The newly-published research article, which appears in the journal Science, can be found here Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: Cugerbrant]]>

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