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Human epoch or just invasive hominid species?

By Dave Armstrong - 12 Mar 2015 9:51:0 GMT
Human epoch or just invasive hominid species?

Before the Mayflower, there were even smaller ships---. Maybe we should call our epoch the New Carboniferous, or get rid of the Holocene. When did the Anthropocene start? Well, nobody really knows or wants to change, but definitions are in vogue. I like the Devonian myself: such an uncomplicated time, and a good place for a vacation! ;

Credit: © ShutterstockMay 17th 1607, James River image

We have viewed,The Anthropocene, as a human era in time, perhaps beginning to emerge with the Industrial Revolution or the advent of nuclear weapons. With geologists as the normal propagators of these terms, there is little in the way of rocks that apply only to human cultures. We can detect agricultural change 10,000 years ago, but the decision has been rather exactly determined as 1610AD, just 400 years ago. And the intriguing part is that it was a drop in CO2 concentrations that distinguishes the date. This was likely to be created by the loss of American populations. They burnt forest on a great scale, meaning that the decrease in agricultural activity over 2 continents would have cause new natural afforestations to absorb much more carbon dioxide!

The reasoning of the scientific pair responsible is that there was a spike in the planet’s biochemical footprint that is easily detectable. Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin work at University College London and Leeds University, both in the UK,

make their claim in Nature as Defining the Anthropocene. There was a sudden increase in trade, and shipping in particular, that transported people and other species across the globe. The New and the Old Worlds met, with catastrophic consequences for the one and much-hoped-for riches for the other.

One of the lesser problems in deciding on whether to retain this concept of the Anthropocene is the fact that the Holocene hasn’t finished yet. The Holocene would be by far the shortest geological period or epoch. In fact it could be considered as simply an inter-glacial period! One answer would be to take the Pleistocene humans (originating hen alongside many other mammalian species) and regard them as signalling the start of a new Anthropocene. The poor little Holocene would be discarded.

An international group of scientists from many disciplines is considering this labelling procedure, possibly distracting us from more inventive pursuits, Lewis and Maslin, however, try here to clear up the situation, just in case it becomes disorganised as a mass of opposing claims. 1610 and 1964 seem the obvious beginnings of something. Is this type of change significant enough to classify as a geological epoch. I don’t know, but colonialism, the deaths of 50 million native Americans through disease and domination, and the first worldwide trade certainly seem equivalent to a rock-based timing. The coal industry took off then, new hunting and agricultural techniques evolved and social reorganisation was apocalyptic for many.

The revolutionary proposal of Nicholas Copernicus in 1543 could be said to have helped drive the ideologies that produced the Anthropocene. It is the human actions that need to be taken as driving the Anthropocene though. We have created this messy future that our descendants will be dealing with for centuries. The ideology that pushes philosophical, social, economic and political moves in the next decade or two will determine how we will appear to them, as Anthropocene delinquents or drivers.

Here is a thought on the iceless Arctic during the Pliocene, just before we began our earthly adventures and progressed to our current de-icing!