Thanks to human activity over the past 65 years, the global ecological crisis is now so severe that geologist have declared we are living in a new geological epoch.
A panel of experts presented evidence to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa today, informing them that the earth has transitioned from the Holocene epoch to the Anthropocene epoch. Reported the Guardian:
The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.
The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene.
“The significance of the Anthropocene is that it sets a different trajectory for the Earth system, of which we of course are part,” said Prof Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester and chair of the Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA), which started work in 2009.
“If our recommendation is accepted, the Anthropocene will have started just a little before I was born,” he said. “We have lived most of our lives in something called the Anthropocene and are just realising the scale and permanence of the change.”
If this isn’t a wake up call to take serious and dramatic action on climate change and our destruction of the earth’s vital ecosystems, I’m not sure what is. Global warming isn’t just a problem we have to contend with some time in the future, it is happening now, and the effects are going to be catastrophic unless we start to change our behavior.
According to NASA analyses of ground-based observations and satellite data: “Two key climate change indicators — global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent — have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016.” The report continues: “Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the late nineteenth century.”
This cooking of the planet is set to cause extreme weather, ocean acidification, crop destruction, air pollution, and mass deforestation — all of which contribute to rapid species extinction and the loss of natural habitat. If we continue on this path, the earth will be unrecognizable for future generations, who quite literally won’t be able to survive if current population projections are correct.
If you are feeling helpless about this, don’t. Instead, start doing some research to see how you can get involved and help spread the message.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.