Monday, February 4, 2008

Are we living in the Anthropocene?

Look for a new post on the nuclear sublime in the next few days. In the meantime, cross-posted from my other blog, the question must be asked: Are we living in the Anthropocene?

Geologists at the University of Leicester, picking up on a proposal first made by chemist Paul Crutzen in 2002, now suggest that the Holocene epoch has ended. The new epoch, which they dub the Anthropocene, is the result of significant human actions. Its markers include disturbances to the carbon cycle and global termperature, ocean acidification, changes to sediment erosion and deposition, and species extinctions like those mentioned above.

The Anthropocene formally recognizes a widely perceived reality, the sharp line between the pre-industrial world and the technology-laden planet we now call home, awash with digital tools and freighted with the after-effects of industrial activity. And indeed, the cover of
GSA Today (a publication of the Geological Society of America) in which this work appears makes the case rather strongly, showing the high-rise buildings of Shanghai fading out into the distance. It’s a stark reminder of how megacities like this one are transforming the planet... (Italicized text from the Centauri Dreams link. Via io9.)