The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age


**Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town on Monday.

The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.
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It’s an interesting idea. Though I’m surprised they limited it to 1950. Man’s worldwide impact on that kind of scale really starts IMO if you go back to the Industrial Revolution with the large scale scattering of ash and soot from the beginning of large scale coal mechanization around the globe. The 20th century just saw that accelerate and take on new dimensions such as their a fore mentioned nuclear fallout.


Yeah, I would argue that it should begin with the dawn of agriculture, but I suspect that they’re primarily basing the 1950 date on plastics. Apparently a sedimentary traces of plastic molecules can be found literally everywhere, so I think it might be based on human-created permanent geological change. Also, I suppose “1950” is a very nice and agreeable sounding, almost mythic or magical number.


It is a mythic and magical number, especially with regard to my own life.




Indeed. One small step for me, one giant leap for humanity.


:DSeveral millenia henceforth, commentors will look back to the mysterious dawn of the Anthropocene epoch and note, “This is when meltzerboy first appeared in the world timeline.”.



Actually, the date of 1945 was chosen based upon the detonation of the first atomic bomb in the summer of that year; that bomb representing the human use of energy sufficient to significantly change the surface of the Earth.



It seems odd that that would be the delineation year then. We’ve been cutting massive holes into the earth for quarries for much longer than we’ve exploding atomic bombs.

Maybe they meant a single expenditure of energy of such magnitude…


This sounds interesting because there are still people alive that were born before the new epoch would start.


It’s also the first epoch beginning within the duration of human life proper.



I think that’s it exactly. You can trace the beginning of the industrial age (coal and steam power) back to the late 1700s, coming to fruition in the 1800s, but it reached a “tipping point” somewhere between 1945 and 1950 – 1945 with the detonation of the first nuclear weapon, 1950 when it could be shown that radioisotopes generated by said weapons were appearing worldwide, including the tundra in Alaska. Quarries may have been dug for millenia, but when you stop using a quarry, it quickly returns to a natural state.

You can get an idea about the radioisotope problem with this scene from “Deep Space 9”:


It’s not all that far from Japan to Alaska.

Quarrying the land and moving bits of rock from one part of the surface to another (or dropping metal mined from beneath the surface onto the ocean floor) isn’t that big of a change, but releasing energy that the earth has stored since time began is a big deal.



IMHO we were propelled from the previous epoch into this one on June 28th, 1914.


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