Welcome to The Anthropocene
Welcome to the Anthropocene.
On Wednesday (May 18, 2011) 17 Nobel laureates who gathered in Stockholm have published a remarkable memorandum, asking for “fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change”. The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that we have entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene, where humanity has become the main driver of global change. The document states:
Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. [...]
We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.
We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial.
There has been informal discussion previously of an Anthropocene Period, but this Memorandum is a new, ratcheted boost to the concept of a climate period dominated by human influence/activity.
I'm not going to provide links below, the following is my summary of multiple sources.* However, if you are interested in this topic, you can visit the Friends of the Pleistocene, as they are always looking for new friends. And why not be friends with the Epoch that evolved your own species?
Geologists and paleoclimatologists (among others) divide past periods of Earth history primarily based on climate. The current/previous period of time is/was called the Holocene Epoch. This period of time is/has lasted for approximately 10,000-12,000 years and is described as the current(?) post-glacial period following the last continental glacial period of the previous Pleistocene Epoch. The Pleistocene extends back approximately 2.588 million years back and together with the Holocene comprise the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic Era**.
Some would maybe include the Holocene as an interglacial stage of the Pleistocene, but I digress....
The porposed Anthropocene Period has been kicked around for a while (2000 actually), as noted by the first link. But it is gaining speed quickly. That said, there is no definitive evidence that even the proposed Anthropocene is more than a sub-stage of the Holocene and Pleistocene glacial and inter-glacial period, but there I go digressing again.... The occurence of mass-extinctions would, however, be a significant development....
* Actually, the wiki for the Pleistocene (more than the Holocene or Cenozoic) is (currently) not half-bad as a starter either.
** The beginning of the Cenozoic Era is marked by the popularly-known mass extinction event ending the age of dinosaurs. but also marked by a longer global cooling trend related to ocean currents formed by the re-configuration of the continents that also developed during this time due to plate techtonics.