The Anthropocene Is Here: Humanity Has Pushed Earth Into a New Epoch

The epoch is thought to have begun in the 1950s, when human activity set global systems on a different trajectory

"We have had an incredible impact on the environment of our planet," says Colin Waters, principal geologist at the British Geological Survey. (Photo: Kevin Gill/flickr/cc)

“We have had an incredible impact on the environment of our planet,” says Colin Waters, principal geologist at the British Geological Survey. (Photo: Kevin Gill/flickr/cc)

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The Anthropocene Epoch has begun, according to a group of experts assembled at the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa this week.

After seven years of deliberation, members of an international working group voted unanimously on Monday to acknowledge that the Anthropocene—a geologic time interval so-dubbed by chemists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000—is real.

The epoch is thought to have begun in the 1950s, when human activity, namely rapid industrialization and nuclear activity, set global systems on a different trajectory. And there’s evidence in the geographic record. Indeed, scientists say that nuclear bomb testing, industrial agriculture, human-caused global warming, and the proliferation of plastic across the globe have so profoundly altered the planet that it is time to declare the 11,700-year Holocene over.

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