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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change.[1][2][3][4][5]

As of August 2016, neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy nor the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) has yet officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geological time,[3][6][7] although the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), voted to proceed towards a formal golden spike (GSSP) proposal to define the Anthropocene epoch in the Geologic Time Scale and presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress on 29 August 2016.[8]

Various different start dates for the Anthropocene have been proposed, ranging from the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12,000–15,000 years ago, to as recent as the Trinity test in 1945. As of February 2018, the ratification process continues and thus a date remains to be decided definitively, but the latter date has been more favoured than others.

The most recent period of the Anthropocene has been referred to by several authors as the Great Acceleration during which the socioeconomic and earth system trends are increasing dramatically, especially after the Second World War. For instance, the Geological Society termed the year 1945 as The Great Acceleration.[9]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The Anthropocene and the Near Future: Crash Course Big History #9
  • ✪ Welcome to the Anthropocene
  • ✪ Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction
  • ✪ When Did the Anthropocene Really Begin?
  • ✪ Welcome to the Anthropocene - a Film About the State of the Planet - UN Rio+20 Summit (2012)

Transcription

Hi, I'm John Green, this is Crash Course Big History and today we're going to talk about the Anthropocene. Mr. Green! Mr. Green! Anthropocene? What does that even mean? That sounds like gibberish. No, Me From the Past, your tenth grade essays were gibberish. The Anthropocene is a word derived from the Greek word for human. Like you know how anthropologists study humans? Well, the Anthropocene is an unofficial geologic era where humans have an immense influence over the biosphere. But I want to emphasize that it is unofficial because geologists are a vicious and terrifying bunch and the word is not official until they say it's official. But even if it's not yet a word, the underlying concept is very useful. So due to the intensification of collective learning and the continued rise of complexity we've been talking about, you could argue that more change has happened in the past century than in the previous, like, 250,000 years of human history. And it's all roughly within living memory. You, your parents and your grandparents have lived in one of the most complex and interesting times ever. So, since 1800, we've had a Cambrian explosion of innovation and discovery, like in the last few years alone we've discovered a fundamental particle that weaves together the fabric of the universe - The Higgs Boson. We discovered the largest ever black hole, which is about 17 billion times the mass of our sun, we found preserved woolly mammoth blood, we even have electric cars that go more than 125 miles per hour. Although, you should drive them more slowly, obviously. We've grown to a population of seven billion people and your phone has more computing power than all of NASA did when they sent men to the Moon in 1969. And collective learning is increasing exponentially, here's Emily Graslie from The Brain Scoop to help us understand the scale of that growth of knowledge. As human populations grow exponentially, collective learning is undergoing a snowball effect. In humanity's first 250,000 years as foragers, about nine billion people lived and died. Thanks to agriculture in the last thousand years, about 55 billion people have lived and died, and seven billion of them are around now. This is great for rising complexity. We now live in a unified global network of billions of brains. Communication is almost instantaneous and we harness the power of the Earth and Sun on a massive scale. The potential for new breakthroughs in technology or in our understanding of the cosmos is heightened by all of this. It's all part of the continuous rising complexity in Big History, a trend that has been preceding for over 13.8 billion years - from gas clouds to stars to single-celled organisms to trilobites to dinosaurs to culture. The beginnings of the Anthropocene weren't all sunshine and daisies, however. The late 19th century was marked by an increase in the destructiveness of weaponry, a number of colonial empires covered the entire Earth, with the exception of a few non-European states which managed to maintain their independence, and mounting nationalism and bigotry led to some terrible chaos in the early 20th century. World War I killed 15 million people, the Spanish flu which followed it and spread largely as a result of the unified global system that had previously been so valuable to collective learning killed off three times as many, and 50 million people were killed during World War II. Such is the devastating cost of increased innovation and connectivity. Following World War II, a new wave of industrialization entered East Asia, Central and South America, The Middle East and other areas. Newly developed crops, especially strains of wheat and rice, helped places like India and China, which in the mid-20th century still suffered famines. Their populations exploded for better or worse, and we harnessed the power of atomic fission, putting immense power in the hands of humans to be used for good or ill. It's the threat of nuclear holocaust combined with the possibility of an asteroid impact or super-volcanic eruption that makes scientists like Stephen Hawking encourage the colonization of the Solar System to increase the chances of our species surviving. Coping with scarcity is the bottom line of much of organic history encompassing all species, including humans. So for most of human history the world was separated into four isolated zones. The agrarian communities within those zones were largely subdivided into separate social orders and classes and varying degrees of wealth. And the number of the wealthy, landed gentry and aristocrats in the average agrarian civilization, whether it was Mughal India or Louis XIV's France, was between ten and twenty percent of the total population. So, at most, twenty percent of people were not poor. Today, in a united global system (I mean, except for North Korea) if you earn more than roughly $20,000 per year, as most working adults in the developed world do, you are in the top 20% of the world's richest people. You are part of the global aristocracy. But I should note that a couple things definitely have changed. For one thing, if you are part of the global aristocracy, you are enjoying a standard of living better than what kings had only a couple centuries ago. You probably have a refrigerator. You flip a switch and the lights come on. You have antibiotics, at least for a few more years. I mean, admittedly Netflix doesn't have any of the good movies, but that's still a better entertainment option than what Louis XIV had. All he had was public executions. And hopefully the average person in the developed world today is a little more enlightened about the challenges of poverty than an 18th century aristocrat would have been, but the jury is still out on that one. I mean that's why "first world problems" is a meme, right? But, how we behave toward the developing world in the next 100 years will determine much of how we are viewed not only by them, but by the thousands of future generations that come after us and read of our deeds in history. So, is human history a story of progress where life has become better for most people over the course of 250,000 years and will life continue to get better for most people during the Anthropocene? We're going to try to answer that by looking at the Anthropocene in light and shade, which is basically just a list of pros and cons. Pro - Since 1970, manufacturing jobs have lifted approximately 600 million people out of poverty, modern technologies can now feed and clothe more humans than ever before. Con - More people in the developing world are forced from traditional ways of life and into factory jobs with poor safety standards, long hours and measly wages. And a lot of the goods that they produce go overseas to enhance the standard of living of a prosperous and wealthy developed world. And while the ratio of impoverished to wealthy countries in 1820 was about 3:1, today it's closer to 72:1. Standards of living may be increasing on average, but the wealth inequality gap is getting wider and wider. But pro - we have managed to harness a lot of energy, our use of coal and oil and nuclear power. These energy flows have allowed us to generate an astounding amount of complexity in our little corner of the universe and improved people's standards of living. Yeah, but con - current modes of production rely heavily on non-renewable resources that are not great for the environment. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past twenty years, you will probably have heard of climate change and the potentially devastating effects it will have. Furthermore, as humanity continues to force the environment to adapt to our needs, we are accelerating the rate of extinction of plant and animal species that don't happen to be useful to us. One of the reasons we call this period the Anthropocene is, if humanity were to suddenly disappear and aliens were to land on Earth 500 million years later and start excavating, even if they saw no sign of the humans on the fossil record, they would see a mass extinction event rivaling the five most devastating mass extinctions in pre-human history. Pro - collective learning's advances in medicine, agriculture and genetic engineering have in the past 200 years lowered the death rate and freed billions of people from the cycles of starvation and famine that affected agrarian civilizations. Con - the tremendous expansion of populations in India and China have created a severe problem for the infrastructures of those countries. We now have seven billion people on Earth and we'll grow to between 9.6 and 12 billion later in the century. Yet, at our current rates of consumption and modes of production, the world could only support a population of two or three billion people who enjoyed the same standard of living as people in the United States do. China's population may level off by around 2050, India's might level off by 2070, but Sub-Saharan Africa, a region of the world that already suffers from the highest levels of poverty and is least equipped to deal with problems of overpopulation is set to expand enormously even past the year 2100. Add to this the likelihood that climate change will reduce the amount of arable cropland on the Earth by 10-25% and we may have a severe population problem on our hands. And as we can see from the population cycles of the agrarian period, overpopulation tends to spark more violence. Pro - in the long term, development of a country's economy tends to change demographic trends. While an agrarian civilization benefited greatly from a farmer having half a dozen kids, first to combat the high infant mortality rate, and second, because by the time they were twelve, they could help out at the farm, today, kids take 18-22 years to educate and they're expensive. Also, adults end up having other opportunities open to them. Fewer kids, more hours on the Xbox or pursuing a law degree or a high-flying business career, whatever. Economic development can slow population growth. And many of the developed regions' of the world populations are stabilizing, which is why it is important to foster economic growth in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. Con - but what drives a lot of the economic growth? Energy production, and developing countries are more prone to use inexpensive, fast and dirty forms of fuel to develop, rather than more expensive, eco-friendly alternatives. This compounds the environmental problem, which in turn can mess up the environment and compound the population problem. So it turns out, it's complicated and we are a little bit ambivalent about the Anthropocene. In the next century, humanity's population growth will continue, but it'll hopefully level off between 10 and 12 billion people due to declining birth rates. If it doesn't, we might be in trouble. Well, we'll definitely be in trouble at some point, we just don't know when. But even if it does level off, we've still got problems concerning how to support all those people at a decent standard of living and how to find the energy to fuel that process. I mean, we're talking about between 10 and 12 billion people. The first time the world's population got to one billion humans was 1804. So right now, we're still heavily dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels. Well, technically, they are renewable but you need, like, a 100 million years. But there are a few possible future scenarios. One - we are miraculously saved by some technology in the same way that the industrial revolution lifted humanity out of the recurring cycles of famine in the agrarian era. Two - we collapse miserably into ruins and ashes. I don't like "two," Stan, is there an option three? Oh there is, that's good news! Three - we can guide human society into a "creative descent," a gentle decline of complexity to more simple, subsistence living. Actually, you know what, I'm not crazy about "three" either, I am all for "one." Now, at present, we don't know what scenario will play out. We're acting as if we will be saved by some technology, and in fact, that's the only way that leads to the continuing rise of complexity, but we can't just assume that will happen. And as for the potential dangers of the 21st century, there are environmental disasters, the rise of a superbug that wipes out millions upon millions of people, possible global conflict or a rise in instability. The next fifty years will be fraught with a lot of risk. But if we can somehow make it through what some call the 21st century bottleneck, things start to brighten again. We'll be a stable population of 10-12 billion increasingly well-educated and interconnected innovators, and that's great for collective learning in the 21st century. Who knows where such massive potential could lead? It's important to remember that while there are seven billion people in the world right now, many of them don't have access to good education and that limits their innovative potential. If in the future we see less poverty, as we've seen in the last twenty years, and more access to education, I'm kind of hopeful. As far as we know, we are unique in the universe, and if for nothing else, it is our duty to our own innate curiosity to survive and to see where this rising complexity leads. Our task as a species in this century is to survive it. If we can just manage that, from the end of the 21st century, the universe may take us in a thousand astonishing directions. More on that next time.

Contents

General

An early concept for the Anthropocene was the Noosphere by Vladimir Vernadsky, who in 1938 wrote of "scientific thought as a geological force."[10] Scientists in the Soviet Union appear to have used the term "anthropocene" as early as the 1960s to refer to the Quaternary, the most recent geological period.[11][full citation needed] Ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer subsequently used "anthropocene" with a different sense in the 1980s[12] and the term was widely popularized in 2000 by atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen,[13] who regards the influence of human behavior on Earth's atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch.

In 2008, the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London considered a proposal to make the Anthropocene a formal unit of geological epoch divisions.[3][14] A majority of the commission decided the proposal had merit and should be examined further. Independent working groups of scientists from various geological societies have begun to determine whether the Anthropocene will be formally accepted into the Geological Time Scale.[15]

The term "anthropocene" is informally used in scientific contexts.[16] The Geological Society of America entitled its 2011 annual meeting: Archean to Anthropocene: The past is the key to the future.[17] The new epoch has no agreed start-date, but one proposal, based on atmospheric evidence, is to fix the start with the Industrial Revolution ca. 1780, with the invention of the steam engine.[14][18] Other scientists link the new term to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture and the Neolithic Revolution (around 12,000 years BP). Evidence of relative human impact – such as the growing human influence on land use, ecosystems, biodiversity, and species extinction – is substantial; scientists think that human impact has significantly changed (or halted) the growth of biodiversity.[19] Those arguing for earlier dates posit that the proposed Anthropocene may have begun as early as 14,000 to 15,000 years before present, based on geologic evidence; this has led other scientists to suggest that "the onset of the Anthropocene should be extended back many thousand years";[20]:1 this would be closely synchronous with the current term, Holocene.

The Trinity test in 1945 has been proposed as the start of the Anthropocene.
The Trinity test in 1945 has been proposed as the start of the Anthropocene.

In January 2015, 26 of the 38 members of the International Anthropocene Working Group published a paper suggesting the Trinity test on 16 July 1945 as the starting point of the proposed new epoch.[21] However, a significant minority supports one of several alternative dates.[21] A March 2015 report suggested either 1610 or 1964 as the beginning of Anthropocene.[22] Other scholars point to the diachronous character of the physical strata of the Anthropocene, arguing that onset and impact are spread out over time, not reducible to a single instant or date of start.[23]

A January 2016 report on the climatic, biological, and geochemical signatures of human activity in sediments and ice cores suggested the era since the mid-20th century should be recognised as a distinct geological epoch from the Holocene.[24]

The Anthropocene Working Group met in Oslo in April 2016 to consolidate evidence supporting the argument for the Anthropocene as a true geologic epoch.[25] Evidence was evaluated and the group voted to recommend "Anthropocene" as the new geological age in August 2016.[8] Should the International Commission on Stratigraphy approve the recommendation, the proposal to adopt the term will have to be ratified by the IUGS before its formal adoption as part of the geologic time scale.[7]

Etymology

The name Anthropocene is a combination of anthropo- from anthropos (Ancient Greek: ἄνθρωπος) meaning "human" and -cene from kainos (Ancient Greek: καινός) meaning "new" or "recent."[26][27]

As early as 1873, the Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani acknowledged the increasing power and effect of humanity on the Earth's systems and referred to an 'anthropozoic era'.[28]

Although the biologist Eugene Stoermer is often credited with coining the term "anthropocene", it was in informal use in the mid-1970s. Paul Crutzen is credited with independently re-inventing and popularizing it. Stoermer wrote, "I began using the term 'anthropocene' in the 1980's, but never formalized it until Paul contacted me."[29] Crutzen has explained, "I was at a conference where someone said something about the Holocene. I suddenly thought this was wrong. The world has changed too much. So I said: 'No, we are in the Anthropocene.' I just made up the word on the spur of the moment. Everyone was shocked. But it seems to have stuck."[30]:21 In 2008, Zalasiewicz suggested in GSA Today that an anthropocene epoch is now appropriate.[14]

Nature of human effects

Homogenocene

Homogenocene (from old Greek: homo-, same geno-, kind, kainos-, new and -cene, period) is a more specific term used to define our current geological epoch, in which biodiversity is diminishing and biogeography and ecosystems around the globe seem more and more similar to one another mainly due to invasive species that have been introduced around the globe either on purpose (crops, livestock) or inadvertently.

The term Homogenocene was first used by Michael Samways in his editorial article in the Journal of Insect Conservation from 1999 titled "Translocating fauna to foreign lands: here comes the Homogenocene."[31]

The term was used again by John L. Curnutt in the year 2000 in Ecology, in a short list titled "A Guide to the Homogenocene",[32] which reviewed Alien species in North America and Hawaii: impacts on natural ecosystems by George Cox. Charles C. Mann, in his acclaimed book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, gives a bird's eye view of the mechanisms and ongoing implications of the homogenocene.

Biodiversity

The human impact on biodiversity forms one of the primary attributes of the Anthropocene.[33] Humankind has entered what is sometimes called the Earth's sixth major extinction.[34][35] Most experts agree that human activities have accelerated the rate of species extinction. The exact rate remains controversial – perhaps 100 to 1000 times the normal background rate of extinction.[36] A 2010 study found that "marine phytoplankton – the vast range of tiny algae species accounting for roughly half of Earth's total photosynthetic biomass – had declined substantially in the world's oceans over the past century. From 1950 alone, algal biomass decreased by around 40%, probably in response to ocean warming – and that the decline had gathered pace in recent years."[37][need quotation to verify] Some authors have postulated that without human impacts the biodiversity of the planet would continue to grow at an exponential rate.[19]

Increases in global rates of extinction have been elevated above background rates since at least 1500, and appear to have accelerated in the 19th century and further since.[2] A New York Times op-ed on 13 July 2012 by ecologist Roger Bradbury predicted the end of biodiversity for the oceans, labelling coral reefs doomed: "Coral reefs will be the first, but certainly not the last, major ecosystem to succumb to the Anthropocene."[38] This op-ed quickly generated much discussion among conservationists; The Nature Conservancy rebutted Bradbury on its website, defending its position of protecting coral reefs despite continued human impacts causing reef declines.[39]

In a pair of studies published in 2015, extrapolation from observed extinction of Hawaiian snails led to the conclusion that "the biodiversity crisis is real", and that 7% of all species on Earth may have disappeared already.[40][41] Human predation was noted as being unique in the history of life on Earth as being a globally distributed 'superpredator', with predation of the adults of other apex predators and with widespread impacts on food webs worldwide.[42] A study published in May 2017 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences posited that a "biological annihilation" akin to a sixth mass extinction event is underway as a result of anthropogenic causes, such as human overpopulation, continued population growth and overconsumption, particularly by the wealthy. The study suggested that as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once lived on Earth were already extinct, threatening the basis for human existence too.[43][44] A different study published in PNAS in May 2018 says that since the dawn of human civilization, 83% of wild mammals have disappeared. Today livestock make up 60% of the biomass of all mammals on earth, followed by humans (36%) and wild mammals (4%).[45]

Biogeography

Permanent changes in the distribution of organisms from human influence will become identifiable in the geologic record. Researchers have documented the movement of many species into regions formerly too cold for them, often at rates faster than initially expected.[46] This has occurred in part as a result of changing climate, but also in response to farming and fishing, and to the accidental introduction of non-native species to new areas through global travel.[2] The ecosystem of the entire Black Sea may have changed during the last 2000 years as a result of nutrient and silica input from eroding deforested lands along the Danube River.[47]

Climate

One geological symptom resulting from human activity is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) content. During the glacial–interglacial cycles of the past million years, natural processes have varied CO2 by approximately 100 ppm (from 180 ppm to 280 ppm). As of 2013, anthropogenic net emissions of CO2 increased atmospheric concentration by a comparable amount from 280 ppm (Holocene or pre-industrial "equilibrium") to approximately 400 ppm,[48] with 2015–16 monthly monitoring data of CO2 displaying a rising trend above 400 ppm.[49] This signal in the Earth's climate system is especially significant because it is occurring much faster,[50] and to a greater extent, than previous, similar changes. Most of this increase is due to the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, although smaller fractions are the result of cement production and land-use changes (e.g. deforestation).

Geomorphology

Changes in drainage patterns traceable to human activity will persist over geologic time in large parts of the continents where the geologic regime is erosional. This includes the paths of roads and highways defined by their grading and drainage control. Direct changes to the form of the Earth's surface by human activities (e.g., quarrying, landscaping) also record human impacts.

It has been suggested the deposition of calthemite formations are one example of a natural process which has not previously occurred prior to the human modification of the Earth's surface, and therefore represents a unique process of the Anthropocene.[51] Calthemite is a secondary deposit, derived from concrete, lime, mortar or other calcareous material outside the cave environment.[52] Calthemites grow on or under, man-made structures (including mines and tunnels) and mimic the shapes and forms of cave speleothems, such as stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone etc.

Stratigraphy

Sedimentological record

Human activities like deforestation and road construction are believed to have elevated average total sediment fluxes across the Earth's surface.[2] However, construction of dams on many rivers around the world means the rates of sediment deposition in any given place do not always appear to increase in the Anthropocene. For instance, many river deltas around the world are actually currently starved of sediment by such dams, and are subsiding and failing to keep up with sea level rise, rather than growing.[2][53]

Fossil record

Increases in erosion due to farming and other operations will be reflected by changes in sediment composition and increases in deposition rates elsewhere. In land areas with a depositional regime, engineered structures will tend to be buried and preserved, along with litter and debris. Litter and debris thrown from boats or carried by rivers and creeks will accumulate in the marine environment, particularly in coastal areas. Such manmade artifacts preserved in stratigraphy are known as "technofossils."[2][54]

Changes in biodiversity will also be reflected in the fossil record, as will species introductions. An example cited is the domestic chicken, originally the red junglefowl Gallus gallus, native to south-east Asia but has since become the world's most common bird through human breeding and consumption, with over 60 billion consumed a year and whose bones would become fossilized in landfill sites.[55]Hence, landfills are important resources to find "technofossils". [56]

Trace elements

In terms of trace elements, there are distinct signatures left by modern societies. For example, in the Upper Fremont Glacier in Wyoming, there is a layer of chlorine present in ice cores from 1960's atomic weapon testing programs, as well as a layer of mercury associated with coal plants in the 1980s. From 1945 to 1951, nuclear fallout is found locally around atomic device test sites, whereas from 1952 to 1980, tests of thermonuclear devices have left a clear, global signal of excess 14
C
, 239
Pu
, and other artificial radionuclides. The highest global concentration of radionuclides was in 1965, one of the dates which has been proposed as a possible benchmark for the start of the formally defined Anthropocene.[57]

Human burning of fossil fuels has also left distinctly elevated concentrations of black carbon, inorganic ash, and spherical carbonaceous particles in recent sediments across the world. Concentrations of these components increases markedly and almost simultaneously around the world beginning around 1950.[2]

Temporal limit

The Anthropocene Working Group voted on the "Base/beginning of the Anthropocene", and most members favoured some time around 1950.[8][58] This time period has also been referred to as the Great Acceleration.

"Early anthropocene" model

While much of the environmental change occurring on Earth is suspected to be a direct consequence of the Industrial Revolution, William Ruddiman has argued that the proposed Anthropocene began approximately 8,000 years ago with the development of farming and sedentary cultures. At this point, humans were dispersed across all of the continents (except Antarctica), and the Neolithic Revolution was ongoing. During this period, humans developed agriculture and animal husbandry to supplement or replace hunter-gatherer subsistence. Such innovations were followed by a wave of extinctions, beginning with large mammals and land birds. This wave was driven by both the direct activity of humans (e.g. hunting) and the indirect consequences of land-use change for agriculture.

From the past to present, some authors consider the Anthropocene and the Holocene to be the same or coeval geologic time span,[59][60] others that the onset of the Anthropocene was just a bit more recent.[61] Ruddiman claims that the Anthropocene, as defined by significant human impact on greenhouse gas emissions, began not in the industrial era, but 8,000 years ago, as ancient farmers cleared forests to grow crops.[62][63][64] Ruddiman's work has, in turn, been challenged on the grounds that comparison with an earlier interglaciation ("Stage 11", approximately 400,000 years ago) suggests that 16,000 more years must elapse before the current Holocene interglaciation comes to an end, and that thus the early anthropogenic hypothesis is invalid.[citation needed] Ruddiman argues in rebuttal that this results from an invalid alignment of recent insolation maxima with insolation minima from the past, among other irregularities, which invalidate the criticism. Furthermore, the argument that "something" is needed to explain the differences in the Holocene is challenged by more recent research showing that all interglacials differ.[65]

Although 8,000 years ago the planet sustained a few million people and was still fundamentally pristine,[66] this is the basis for an assertion that an early date for the proposed Anthropocene term does account for a substantial human footprint on Earth.[67]

Antiquity

A plausible starting point of the Anthropocene could be at ca. 2,000 years ago,[citation needed] which roughly coincides with the start of the final phase of Holocene, the Subatlantic.[68]

At this time, the Roman Empire encompassed large portions of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. In China the classical dynasties were flowering. The Middle kingdoms of India had already the largest economy of the ancient and medieval world. The Napata/Meroitic kingdom extended over the current Sudan and Ethiopia. The Olmecs controlled central Mexico and Guatemala, and the pre-Incan Chavín people managed areas of northern Peru.[69] Although often apart from each other and intermixed with buffering ecosystems, the areas directly impacted by these civilizations and others were large. Additionally, some activities, such as mining, implied much more widespread perturbation of natural conditions.[70] Over the last 11,500 years or so humans have spread around Earth, increased in number, and profoundly altered the material world. They have taken advantage of global environmental conditions not of their own making.The end of the last glacial period – when as much as 30% of Earth's surface was ice-bound – led to a warmer world with more water (H2O). Although humans existed in the previous Pleistocene epoch, it is only in the recent Holocene period that they have flourished. Today there are more humans alive than at any previous point in Earth's history.[71]

Industrial Revolution

Crutzen proposed the Industrial Revolution as the start of Anthropocene.[28] Lovelock proposes that the Anthropocene began with the first application of the Newcomen atmospheric engine in 1712. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change takes the pre-industrial era (chosen as the year 1750) as the baseline related to changes in long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gases.[72] Although it is apparent that the Industrial Revolution ushered in an unprecedented global human impact on the planet,[73] much of Earth's landscape already had been profoundly modified by human activities.[74] The human impact on Earth has grown progressively, with few substantial slowdowns.

Anthropocene marker

A marker that accounts for a substantial global impact of humans on the total environment, comparable in scale to those associated with significant perturbations of the geological past, is needed in place of minor changes in atmosphere composition.[75][76]

A useful candidate for this purpose is the pedosphere, which can retain information of its climatic and geochemical history with features lasting for centuries or millennia.[77] Human activity is now firmly established as the sixth factor of soil formation.[78] It affects pedogenesis either directly, by, for example, land levelling, trenching and embankment building for various purposes, organic matter enrichment from additions of manure or other waste, organic matter impoverishment due to continued cultivation, compaction from overgrazing or, indirectly, by drift of eroded materials or pollutants. Anthropogenic soils are those markedly affected by human activities, such as repeated ploughing, the addition of fertilizers, contamination, sealing, or enrichment with artefacts (in the World Reference Base for Soil Resources they are classified as Anthrosols and Technosols). They are recalcitrant repositories of artefacts and properties that testify to the dominance of the human impact, and hence appear to be reliable markers for the Anthropocene. Some anthropogenic soils may be viewed as the 'golden spikes' of geologists (Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point), which are locations where there are strata successions with clear evidences of a worldwide event, including the appearance of distinctive fossils.[68] Drilling for fossil fuels has also created holes and tubes which are expected to be detectable for millions of years.[79]

In culture

The concept of the Anthropocene has also been approached via humanities such as philosophy, literature and art. In the scholarly world, it has been the subject of increasing attention through special journal issues,[80] conferences,[81][82] and disciplinary reports.[83] The Anthropocene, its attendant timescale, and ecological implications prompts questions about death and the ends of civilization,[84] memory and archives,[85] the scope and methods of humanistic inquiry,[86] and emotional responses to the "end of nature."[87] It has been also criticized as an ideological construct.[88] Some environmentalists on the political left suggest that "Capitalocene" is a more historically appropriate term.[89][90] At the same time, others suggest that the Anthropocene is overly focused on the human species, while ignoring systematic inequalities, such as imperialism and racism, that have also shaped the world.[91]

There are several philosophical approaches on how to handle the future of Anthropocene: Business-as-usual, mitigation, geo-engineering options.[92]

See also

References

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Further reading

External links

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