The Anthropocene period has primarily human beings as change agents for the planet earth. They have to bear the image of the most destructive creature of them all.
Human beings are changing the face of the planet at an ever-increasing rate. An Anthropocene period will be marked by the radical transformations in soil and frozen areas that humans accomplished in contrast with the Holocene period.
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The early Anthropocene period consisted of agriculture and whole scale usage of forests. Then came the cross-fertilization of Old World and New World species. Finally came the Industrial Revolution and the fast changes of the 20th century. These included overpopulation and the society of post-industrial times.
The most recent times illustrate the spread of man-made materials which include aluminum, concrete and plastics. Fossil fuels have led to pollution. This polluting of the water, land and air took off after 1950.
Besides this soil erosion and the building of roads was the final nail in the coffin for the planet. Hydrocarbons and insecticides have further degraded the environment beyond recognition. And the use of fertilizers have spread havoc too.
Then there are the nuclear bomb tests which let loose all that radioactivity into the air. This had far-ranging consequences. The extinction of many species has gone sky high. Human activity seems to have led the earth and all its species into a new era.
Dr Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey said, “Humans have long affected the environment, but recently there has been a rapid global spread of novel materials including aluminium, concrete and plastics, which are leaving their mark in sediments. Fossil-fuel combustion has dispersed fly ash particles worldwide, pretty well coincident with the peak distribution of the ‘bomb spike’ of radionuclides generated by atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.”
“All of this shows that there is an underlying reality to the Anthropocene concept”, commented Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester, a co-author and working group Chair.
A number of UK members of the Anthropocene Working Group have contributed to this study that was published in the journal Science on Thursday.
Colin Waters is lead author and Secretary of the group. Waters and Michael Ellis are both from the British Geological Survey. Other authors include Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams and Matt Edgeworth from Leicester University and Colin Summerhayes from Cambridge University.
This study is actually co-authored by 24 members of the Anthropocene Working Group. The study shows that "humans have changed the Earth system sufficiently to produce a range of signals in sediments and ice, and these are sufficiently distinctive to justify recognition of an Anthropocene Epoch in the Geological Time Scale."
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The way human beings spread throughout the planet and left their mark upon each and every thing is a story that does not need going into. It is enough to say that the ultimate result of all this pollution and environmental fallout will probably not be good. It remains to be seen how humanity fares in its future progress on our lonely planet earth. This year, the Anthropocene Working Group will gather more evidence on the Anthropocene.