Humans are profoundly altering the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. We are not just influencing climate, but are dumping megatons of trash into rivers, oceans, and landfills, changing the chemistry of the oceans, and driving many animal species to extinction. When these sorts of major obvious changes occur in the deep geologic record, geologists give the time period a new name. Right now we live in the Holocene Epoch, but geologists are seriously considering formally renaming the times we live in the Anthropocene, or “Human Epoch”. The really challenging and contentious question is where in time should we mark the beginning of the Anthropocene, and why? Whatever we decide on, future geologists will be absolutely delighted with the mess we are creating, because our mark on the geologic record will be so distinctive and easy to recognize.
Presenter: Jay Quade, Professor, Department of Geosciences