Endless Curiosity

June 3, 2011

The Anthropocene Era

Filed under: Climate Change, Life — Alec @ 2:04 pm

We are no longer living in the Holocene age, but in a new Anthropocene age, a time when the earth is being transformed by humans. As a fascinating article in the Economist says,

In 2000 Paul Crutzen, an eminent atmospheric chemist, realised he no longer believed he was living in the Holocene. He was living in some other age, one shaped primarily by people. From their trawlers scraping the floors of the seas to their dams impounding sediment by the gigatonne, from their stripping of forests to their irrigation of farms, from their mile-deep mines to their melting of glaciers, humans were bringing about an age of planetary change. With a colleague, Eugene Stoermer, Dr Crutzen suggested this age be called the Anthropocene—“the recent age of man”.

If you don’t believe we are having a real impact, consider this from another page at the Economist:

Humans have become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale—but at a far-faster-than-geological speed. A single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tonnes of earth—twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year. That sediment flow itself, meanwhile, is shrinking; almost 50,000 large dams have over the past half- century cut the flow by nearly a fifth. That is one reason why the Earth’s deltas, home to hundreds of millions of people, are eroding away faster than they can be replenished.

The first article is well worth reading, and gives a very interesting perspective on the long-term impacts of climate change, one that reminds me of the better science fiction. Of course, the changes are interesting from a human race perspective; the lives of hundreds of millions of people will probably suck.


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