Friday, February 01, 2008

End of Days?

Mongabay alerts us that the current issue of GSA Today, a journal published by the Geological Society of America, features a peer-reviewed article by scientists arguing that the 11,550-year-old Holocene epoch, witness to the glorious entirety of human civilization, ended at around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. At that point, the human impact on the planet starts to become so great as to effectuate what geologists like to call 'stratigraphically significant change.' That means: change you can notice, if, say, you were looking back in history from a million (or hundred million) years from now.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the Anthropocene.

From "Are we now living in the Anthropocene?":

A case can be made for its consideration as a formal epoch in that, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, Earth has endured changes sufficient to leave a global stratigraphic signature distinct from that of the Holocene or of previous Pleistocene interglacial phases, encompassing novel biotic, sedimentary, and geochemical change. These changes, although likely only in their initial phases, are sufficiently distinct and robustly established for suggestions of a Holocene-Anthropocene boundary in the recent historical past to be geologically reasonable.

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