The official timeline of Earth’s history may soon include the age of nuclear weapons, man-made climate change and the proliferation of plastic, trash and concrete across the planet.
In short, now.
Ten thousand years after our species began forming primitive agricultural societies, a group of scientists took a giant step toward declaring a new geological time interval on Saturday: the Anthropocene, the age of man.
Our current geological era, the Holocene, began 11,700 years ago at the end of the last great ice age. The group of about three dozen scholars seems close to suggesting that, in fact, we have lived through an entirely new unit of time in the past few decades, one characterized by human-induced, planetary-scale changes not yet completed but in progress. in progress.
“If you were around 1920, your attitude would have been, ‘Nature is too big for humans to affect,'” said Colin Waters, a geologist and chair of the Anthropocene Working Group, which has been working since 2009. In deliberating on this issue. The past century has upended that thinking, Waters said. “It was a shocking event, a bit like an asteroid hitting the Earth.”
On Saturday, task force members completed the first in a series of internal votes on details, including when exactly they think the Anthropocene will begin. Once those votes are complete (probably in the northern spring), the group will submit its final proposal to a committee of three other geologists, whose votes will either make the Anthropocene official or reject it.
Each committee needs 60% of its members to approve the group’s proposal before moving on to the next committee. If any of these fail, the Anthropocene may not have a chance of being ratified for many years.
If it goes all the way, though, the geology-revised timeline will officially acknowledge that human impact on Earth was so significant as to close the previous chapter of Earth’s history. It will acknowledge that these effects will be discerned in rocks that are thousands of years old.