The Anthropocene: A New Geologic Age is Here!
The Living on Earth radio program did a recent (July 18, 200eight) interview on the recognition by scientists that we have exited one geologic age and entered a new one, End of an Epoch: the Anthropocene. I wrote of this official upcoming name change in an earlier post titled Love of Life can carry us through.
Thinking of the challenges presented to us by this era we live in, I wrote in that post:
It is our Love-of-Life that can carry us through!
Finding this love requires a dive down and in… deeply, so deeply we are willing to re-member and to re-imagine what it is to be human. And for that, we require intimate contact with the other than human world. Therein lies an emotional and a moral intelligence deeper and older than words themselves.
I’ll be placing a post soon on eco-shock and eco-trauma, and about eco-recovery. Meanwhile Orion magazine
Much has been written about the mechanics of climate change, about its physical manifestations, and about how we are—and are not—addressing it as a society. Recently Orion asked six authors to describe what the changing climate is doing to them personally—how it is affecting their hearts and souls. Here’s what they had to say:
A few quotes from the Living On Earth interview transcript follow; an mp3 audio is available at the site’s link.
“Most geologists now agree that the Holocene epoch is over. In its place scientists suggest we have entered the Anthropocene, an epoch named for the human induced changes to geology. Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz is chairman of the United Kingdom Stratigrapher Commission. He explains the name change to host Bruce Gellerman.”
GELLERMAN: In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re living in a whole new Epoch. Goodbye Holocene, Hello Anthropocene. For the last 10,000 years or so we’ve been blessed with an unusually mild and consistent climate but stratigraphers – the experts who decide this stuff – say we’re now in a whole new scene brought on by us. The International Commission on Stratigraphy will soon be meeting in Norway to make the epoch changing name official. Jan Zalasiewicz is chairman of the United Kingdom Stratigraphy Commission based in Leicester, England.
ZALASIEWICZ: Well if we look at the changes that are taking place now and have taken place over the last couple of centuries in terms of changes to atmospheric composition, soils and sediments, changes to the biology of the Earth. We consider that as comparable to some of the great changes of the geological past. Hence we propose that formally we’re no longer in the Holocene; that we’re in the Anthropocene.
GELLERMAN: So Dr. Zalasiewicz how consequential are humans in terms of you know, the natural cycles of the Earth? I mean gravity and erosion are the forces that are really shaping the planet, right?
ZALASIEWICZ: They are. In terms of lets say landscape formation, erosion, denudation, and so forth then yes gravity, water, wind, waves, and so on. There have been a few recent studies, including some published by the Geological Society of America, which have suggested that humans have now taken over the top stop as regards eroding the surface of the Earth, as regards transporting masses of soil and rock and sediment around the surfaces of the Earth.
Again its another of the symptoms of the Anthropocene and that is both the sediment transported as we build things, as we build our cities, and roads, and bridges, and so forth and also sediment transported as we convert a large part of the landscape into feedstock and agriculture moves a lot of sediment around simply as a byproduct of farming.
ZALASIEWICZ: Well that’s right there’ve been ideas which are partly in the realm of science fiction of going let’s say to Mars and if you like Terra-forming it, trying to alter conditions of the atmosphere and such like you know to make it more habitable. Whether that is realistic or not it’s hard to say but those ideas have been floated as they have for Venus. It’s interesting also that in this context the word terra-forming has been applied to colleagues of mine with respect to Earth. That humans are in effect now terra-forming the Earth.
GELLERMAN: Boy this is exciting stuff.
ZALASIEWICZ: It is. We live in a remarkable time geologically and what’s really exciting is that just at the moment as humanity is got the power to change the planet it’s also got the ability to reflect on the changes that it’s causing to Earth. (Emphasis mine.)
GELLERMAN: Jan Zalasiewicz is chairman of the United Kingdom Stratigraphy Commission.