Before I started this course, I had no idea what the Anthropocene even meant. People would ask me what the course was about and I had not the slightest idea what to tell them. After doing the reading assignments and watching the videos assigned for this week, I have a much better understanding of what exactly the Anthropocene means. Although each article had some small differences in the amount of details they went into, they all have the general same concept: We have left the Holocene epoch and have entered into a new epoch, or possibly even era according to the video “Confronting the Anthropocene” with speaker Andrew Revkin, revolving around human impact on the earth.
The articles proceed to give specific facts as to why we are changing the earth, possibly not for the better. In the article “Is the Anthropocene an Issue of Stratigraphy or Pop Culture” the author speaks about how we may not be aware of how our technology and culture may be overshadowing the earth’s tectonic, climatic, and eustatic processes. The article then goes on to speak about how more proof is necessary before we abruptly end the Holocene and start a new epoch. I tend to agree with this article. I know that we are changing the environment around us by our greenhouse gases and the like, but I tend to want to see a little more proof of changes in the actual rocks. After all, the rocks in the earth are what current stratigraphers use to separate the different time periods.
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One of the most influential and well-respected physicists, Albert Einstein, once said that “The environment is everything that isn’t me”. While his observation may seem quite obvious by stating that people cannot be trees, or grass, or icebergs, I don’t believe Einstein was ready for the shift of the geological epoch that is known to be the Anthropocene. First coined in the early 2000’s, atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen gave the present-day era a fitting name that emodies the essence of the people’s influence on the environment.
According to the article “Geologists drive golden spike toward Anthropocene’s base”, Paul Voosen states that the earliest human influence on the environment could be dated back 40,000 years ago. However, Crutzen notes the “Great Acceleration” period of the early 19th century to be the most influential. With the introduction of the Industrial Revolution came not only a flourishing of businesses and new technology, but also a population growth that affected the environment since. According to the United Nations, the population in the 1950’s (right at the beginning of this acceleration period) was around 2.5 billion people, which was a lot for post-war period. However, the population recorded in 1999 showed that nearly 6 billion people inherited the earth and around 7 billion people today. According to this rise, population could be up to 9 billion people by 2050. What will this mean for the environment?
With the growth of people comes more greenhouse gas emissions, which is one of the causes of climate change and “global warming” in the environment. But, according to Will Steffen in his video lecture on the Anthropocene, there are many other factors that affect the environment which are caused by people, such as ozone depletion and ocean acidification.
There is still controversy surrounding the globalization of the term Anthropocene to be used as a scientific term. Many believe that we have indeed moved into a geological era that has been shaped and molded by people, but there are some (including Cruztzen) who feel that more stratigraphic research on the earth’s sediment layers is needed before jumping to conclusions. Most believe, though, that the term Anthropocene does indeed give people a sort-of “warning” about what kind of influence that they have on the environment that they live in. While Einstein might have had good cause for saying what he did, I don’t think that even his intelligence could have predicted that people would not only shape but eventually become their environment.