Scientists give the thumbs-up for Anthropocene epoch

8 min read
  1. Recently, a 34-member panel of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) has voted in favour of designating a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene. An epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale. It is longer than an age but shorter than a period.
  2. The geological periods basically reflect the natural patterns and changes of Earth history. The periods are further divided into Epochs and Ages.
  3. The current epoch is the Holocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period. The Holocene epoch began 11,700 years ago. The proposed Anthropocene epoch would mark the end of the Holocene epoch.
  4. The term ‘Anthropocene’ was coined in 2000 by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer. It describes the present geological time interval in which human activity has profoundly altered many conditions and processes on Earth.
  5. According to the AWG, the characteristics of the Anthropocene epoch are: a) unprecedented increase in erosion and sediment transport associated with urbanisation and agriculture, b) marked and abrupt anthropogenic perturbations of the cycles of elements such as carbon, environmental changes generated by these perturbations, including global warming, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification, c) rapid changes in the biosphere and d) proliferation and global dispersion of many new ‘minerals’ and ‘rocks’ including concrete, fly ash and plastics, and ‘technofossils’ produced from these and other materials.
  6. In the future course of action, scientists would have to find Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point for the Anthropocene epoch. It is a definitive geologic marker or golden spike which marks the beginning of an epoch. It must be present globally and should be a part of deposits for geological record.
  7. The AWG needs to make a formal proposal to designate the new geological epoch as Anthropocene. This would be considered by several more groups of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The final ratification will be made by the executive committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences- an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the field of geology.

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