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.

Old chair in graveyard.
Photo by Mike B on

Mementoes set in stone, of stone

read by the Earth’s lithographers who are

wondering where to set this Age’s golden spike.

Photo by Pixabay on

Marking slow time: eons, eras, periods, epochs,

passages once set by gods or no gods.

Lithographic signatures etched by the slow swing

of something other than the swifter acts[1]

of Man/Woman.

Other than the naming[2],

always human in its intent & origin.

Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic, Phanerozoic…

mark particularly these four eons,

the last punctuated – for us, importantly –

by life’s appearances, disappearances.

The great phanerozoic extinctions crafted by volcanoes or meteorites.

Or us.

And so we come, waving economic growth

tempered with democracy and

unfettered greed condoned by government

and social mores.

The ICS puzzling not over this time unit’s existence…

but where precisely to mark it.

Could it go way back, homo sapiens

constructing the earth’s own bio-die-verse wanings

with agriculture –

the move away from hunting, gathering

– and thus we were perhaps just another animal?

Do towns mark the rocks, does the gathering of crops[3]

and penned animals,

the emergence of swine and cow flus & poxes

in us?

Do we mark it in coal dust,

Sooty, oiled grains of global industry;

great stainings of public buildings?

Pollution from industrial landuse.
Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on

Or does the dusting of nuclear isotopes

in rocks not 70 or so years ago

mark the beginnings of so many endings?

Does it matter: this naming, this spiking

of time, of eons?

If we’d rather not have a hand

in it, it may well do.

If we think that naming and dating and the whole whirl of life:

social, zoic, mono and multicellular, matters,

ups & downs, ins, outs, appearances, disappearances…

then maybe the anthropogenic convention matters.


[1] Those with another axe to grind will speak of LGBTQIA divisions in this Anthropocene but…

[2] It is the International Commission of Stratigraphy [ICS] who set dates and names for the geological time spans.

[3] And the cutting down of great swathes of forest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s