Well, it seems we’ve finally done it. Humanity has finally made its mark — our own little place in history.
Even if we, as a species, snuff ourselves out now, the next hyper-intelligent creature that emerges from the muck, or one that finds our little planet drifting through space, will know that we were here. Millions of years from now, a scientist with six arms will be sifting through compressed layers of our collective detritus and ponder the most compelling question about our era: Who the heck was Britney Spears?
You see — it seems we’ve entered a new epoch: A period of geological time usually reserved for distinguishing between massive periods of change on the planet. In this case we’ve moved from the era geologists call the Holocene, which has been this relatively stable period since the last ice age 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, to the Anthropocene — a time when human activities have become the dominating force of change on the planet.
According to researchers, just about every natural process on the planet now bears a human signature.
If you look at the air, humans are rapidly changing the composition of the atmosphere by burning vast amounts of oil, coal and gas. If you look at life on the planet, human activities are causing the extinction of many species — possibly leading to a “major extinction event” that rivals others, such as the demise of the dinosaurs.
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So there you have it, the case for the Anthropocene. We’ve done it. We’ve written our name on the wall. We’re the king of the hill, lord of the sandbox. We’re now the most powerful force of change on the planet — so much that we actually get our own epoch. A pretty big responsibility for a naked ape that emerged on the plains of Africa only 150,000 years ago.
So what now, little human? What now?
Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.