We currently live in the Anthropocene, but what is it?

What is the Anthropocene? This is undoubtedly a question many of us are asking. In fact, it is a term used to describe the various species that made man as a species the first geological force on earth.

A study published last February in the journal Advancing Earth and Space Science offers a few answers that can help us determine their true meaning. As Science Alert notes, the real meaning and timing of the Anthropocene is still debated today. These change from person to person. In any case, everyone agrees that this is a new geological epoch and point of no return.

An era that began during the industrial revolution?

The Anthropocene, which literally means “age of man”, is characterized by massive loss of biodiversity without forgetting the phenomena that are of great importance to our generation, such as: B. Air pollution and diffusion of radioactive particles.

Geologists and Earth system scientists, for example, consider the industrial revolution to be the beginning of the Anthropocene. For those who support this hypothesis, we entered this new geological era when our impact on Earth systems prevailed worldwide.

An era that began during the industrial revolution? Photo credit: Shutterstock / TR STOK

A dominant planetary force for thousands of years

The idea that we would belong to a new era was first proposed in 2000 by former Nobel laureate in chemistry, Paul Crutzen, and the American biologist Eugene Stoermer. For many anthropologists, historians and archaeologists, it all began in the 18th century when people began to irreversibly shape their presence in all corners of the world.

However, University of Leicester geologist Colin Waters believes that our species was a dominant planetary force long before the boom of industrialization, globalization and modern climate change.

A planetary force that has dominated for thousands of years … Image Credit: Shutterstock / IM_photo

The golden nails, elements to consider

Agriculture, ranching, and mining, which began several thousand years before Christ, are believed to have resulted in major changes in the signature of the soil and its fossil record. According to the International Commission for Stratigraphy (ICS), the beginning of the Anthropocene must be determined using the so-called “golden nail”, which is defined as a change in the layers of the earth. A change that is the result of global phenomena that have turned the earth’s environment upside down.

The international geological congress in August 2016 was the opportunity to evoke those golden nails that are believed to be the beginning of the Anthropocene. Among the points mentioned are the CO2 content in the atmosphere, the diffusion of radioactive particles, microplastics, the nitrate and phosphate values ​​as well as the pollution by mercury, aluminum or the dispersion of carbon particles. Concrete, to name a few examples.

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