In the past several weeks, the scientific community's been looking at naming the recent epoch. And the eye of the storm is all about humanity's impact to the natural world.
Humanity's impact on the environmental world seems to be heralding a new scientific epoch.
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According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the Smithsonian Institute's issued its first official statement about the causes of climate change on Oct. 2. Even though, mainstream media's been slow in picking up the news, the scientific community has called for a new era since at least the 1980s.
Eugene F. Stoermer, a researcher in diatoms, coined the word "anthropocene" in the 1980s, but atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen pushed the term into popular culture in 2000. Derived from the Greek words for man ("anthro") and current/new ("cene"), the overarching term highlights the global impact of humans on the world through technological and industrialization advancement. The Age of Human has arrived.
Meanwhile the magazine notes a symposium titled “Living in the Anthropocene: Prospects for Climate, Economics, Health, and Security” was held on Oct. 9 in Washington, D.C., and focused on “how humans are transforming the climate and environments of the Earth at an accelerating rate through agriculture, urbanization, transportation, the use of fossil fuels, and many other activities.”
In the posted press release, the Institute focuses on the Smithsonian’s long involvement in environmental history and climate change:
Climate change is not new to the Smithsonian—our scholars have investigated the effects of climate change on natural systems for more than 160 years. We look at processes that occurred millions of years ago alongside developments taking place in today’s climate system.
The Smithsonian responds to climate change in four ways: by increasing knowledge of the human and natural environment through research; by making our findings available to the public; by protecting the Institution’s core asset, the national collections; and by operating our facilities and programs in a sustainable manner.
And the symposium pointed out that Earth can’t really fall back into pre-industrial conditions, yet “the future need not be apocalyptic if we act soon.” For all the problems that climate change provides, there are solutions found within the research and data.
Epidemiologist George Luber agrees with the message of a possibly better future. “We have the direct effects of events like hurricanes, which have both immediate and long-lasting health consequences, but then we also have health effects that come with changing ecology. There are pathogens such as Lyme disease or dengue fever that are sensitive to weather, and their environment can expand or shift.”
In an era of Ebola, West Nile Virus, and other transmittable diseases causing international concern and high levels of death, focusing on how to control natural environments is important. Research offers the chance to save lives as humans band together to offer solutions. Technology offers answers in computer models, changing an entire future on a basic points. However, any outliers will destroy the data collected because it’s no longer reliable.
Admiral Thad Allen feels “the challenge is to understand the complexity of the world we live in and the interaction of technology, human beings and the natural environment and try and think of new ways to build in resiliency into not only the human side of the planet but also the natural side.”
Allen’s experience provides a set of cross-sectional data that backs up the words. As the principal federal official for the U.S. government’s response and recovery operations in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, climate change and environmental reclamation remain vital in rebuilding the areas around New Orleans and the delta region.
Saba Naseem notes the World Bank posited the theory that underdeveloped regions depending on economic boosts require sustainable resources. Rachel Kyte observes how natural disasters and “events can wipe out decades worth of development in just a few minutes or hours. We’ve seen countries and regions lose anywhere from 2 to 200 percent of their GDP.” The information is particularly important in a globalized world where the biggest economies involve preeminent trading partners and technological innovation.
Tech Times’ James Maynard reports that Anthropocene may not be the term scientists will use, however. “A group including climatologists, geologists, ecological researchers and an expert in international law will all meet in Berlin on October 23 and 24 to discuss the question of assigning a new epoch to our current time.” While a good informal term, anyone who’s taken a science class knows that classification takes time.
In fact, according to Anthropocene Working Group site, the epoch’s beginnings are still in the middle of debate. Some scientists believe the epoch began around 1800, at the start of the industrialization of Europe, while others focus on earlier or later (during the atomic age). One thing not in debate is the geological fact the planet’s in the epoch for the Quarternary Period, which began at the end of the last ice age. Only official title and beginning point are disputed.
The subcommittee’s been working together since 2009 under the umbrella word to offer accurate proof, but the International Geological Congress gets the final approval of names and terminology. And don’t expect any epoch naming ceremonies soon. The IGC will not vote until August 2016.
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No matter when the era started, the clearest message across all science disciplines and subdisciplines indicate the Age of Human has irreparably changed the world. Whether Anthropocene ended up being the official term or not, nothing can alter the impact of climate change as people still clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy two years later. Now, the science community is beginning to connect, collect, document and offer possible solutions on how to coexist with nature.