According to researchers, humans have altered Earth so extensively that the consequences will be detectable in current and future geological records.
We are currently present in the Holocene epoch, which begun 11,700 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. It was marked by warming and large sea level rise coming out of a major cool period, the Younger Dryas. However, the researchers are now working towards a formal classification of the new epoch. This so-called Anthropocene epoch, shows humanity’s impacts on Earth, which will be visible in sediments and rocks millions of years into the future. According to the researchers, Earth has moved into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene sometime circa 1945-1964.
Colin Waters, a geologist at the British Geological Survey, and the lead author of the study, said, “Quite unlike other subdivisions of geological time, the implication of formalizing the Anthropocene reach well beyond the geological community. Not only would this represent the first instance of a new epoch having been witnessed firsthand by advanced human societies, it would be one stemming from the consequences of their own doing.”
The researchers have stated that since 1950 there was a great acceleration in the human population and its consumption of the resources. It also coincided with the spread of ubiquitous “techno materials”, such as aluminium, concrete and plastic. This period also covers the years when thermonuclear weapons tests dispersed radioactive elements across the globe. The researchers believe that their long-lived activity will be found hundreds of millennia from now.
However, it must be noted that the findings are not a final declaration of the epoch. It is the work of the 24 authors, who are part of the “Anthropocene Working Group.” These findings will be a part of the broader International Commission on Stratigraphy. It is a body that will ultimately have to approve the authors’ suggestion if a new era is to be formalized. However, if the findings are accepted then the famous Chronostratigraphic Chart featured in textbooks and on posters in school classrooms is likely to undergo an immediate redesign.