Planting the Anthropocene’s golden spike

An extract from an article

Photo by Pixabay on

Although there is a strong agreement among scientists that human activity has pushed the earth out of the stable patterns of the Holocene, debate is far from settled about whether this constitutes a new geological epoch and, if so, where to plant the golden spike between the epochs – the industrial revolution, the dropping of the atom bomb, the beginning of the ‘Great Acceleration’ in the 1950s? And if, as seems increasingly likely, this period in which human activity dominates the earth’s systems is officially ratified as an epoch by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which oversees the official geologic time chart, it will almost inevitably be called the Anthropocene, since the name already has such popular traction.

Falconer, Delia. Signs and Wonders: Dispatches from a time of beauty and loss (p. 126). Simon & Schuster Australia. Kindle Edition.

Most of us, I suspect, are at least temporarily deranged by the idea that in a few billion years or so the Earth will be being swallowed by a sun dramatically increasing in size: oceans evaporated, surface melting, the planet devoured by a red giant. Then again, most of us, I suspect, also figure a billion years or more is a long, long way off so ‘Nah, why worry about it’.

And besides, it looks like we’ll probably have a large hand in our own extinction, anyway, long before we see the sun getting any bigger. If we accept the idea of the Anthropocene, it’s we who’ll be named as murderer by someone in the drawing room. Not quite sure who our detective is, of course, given that we’re all in the same boat. Or on the same planet (despite certain fossil fuel oligarchs and attendant minions thinking they have a planet B up a fantastical sleeve somewhere).

In case you need it, this is the Anthropocene Working Group’s definition of the not yet ratified geological time unit, the Anthropocene: ‘in which many [natural] conditions and processes on Earth are profoundly altered by human impact’. That’s simple enough, you’d think.

Falconer asks a pretty good question; when did this Anthropocene [if that is what we will call the current human crafted period] begin? The Anthropocene Working Group’s key questions obviously revolve not merely around defining it and accepting its reality (as most scientists do)  but where and when it began. What evidence allows them to say this marks its beginnings?

2 thoughts on “Planting the Anthropocene’s golden spike

  1. Though we come at this from different perspectives I cannot help but agree with you that ‘lots of those Christians who voted for Trump have their purse as their first priority’ [as did lots of conservatives, Christian or not, who voted Scott Morrison’s fossil fooled government back in here in Australia in 2019 and the Tories in the UK with Johnson at the helm – albeit he was more climate aware than either Trump or Morrison]. ‘Like a flock of sheep, they want to follow whoever offers them the most attractive option without further thought. They forget that the choices they make to continue to industrialise their country shall have a terrible impact on their environment.’
    Well said. No matter what your political persuasion or faith, surely we have reached a point where we must admit that there is NO CHANCE of growing economies (or purses) in an environmental wasteland.

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