The debate over the Anthropocene, explained

From Vox.

Humans have changed the planet. Should that go on the geologic calendar?

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The word “Anthropocene” has gained cultural resonance in recent years, as it’s become clearer that humans have made an indelible — and destructive — impact on our planet. But it’s also a term with a specific technical meaning: an epoch, or geologic unit of time, named for humans.

In 2009, geologists first started investigating whether the Anthropocene should be formally recognized as part of the way we record geologic time. This video explains what happened next: how a team of scientists looked for the evidence to make their case, and what it means to consider human time as part of the Earth’s 4.6 billion-year history.

Note: The title of this video has been updated.
Previous title: Should humans get their own geologic era?

Future Perfect’s Sigal Samuel has covered the Anthropocene debate for Vox.com:
https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2023/7/11/23791629/anthropocene-climate-epoch-canada-lake-crawford
https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2024/3/7/24092675/anthropocene-climate-change-epoch-geology

This website gives a thorough overview of all the sites the Anthropocene Working Group investigated, including Crawford Lake: https://www.anthropocene-curriculum.org/the-geological-anthropocene

We don’t mention this in the video, but Phil Gibbard and Erle Ellis co-authored a paper proposing the Anthropocene as an “event” rather than an epoch: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jqs.3416

For more reading:

The New York Times did a lot of great reporting on the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s process for considering the Anthropocene:
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/17/climate/anthropocene-age-geology.html

The New Yorker covered some of the drama behind the Anthropocene decision:
https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-weekend-essay/the-epic-row-over-a-new-epoch

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