Claim: The Anthropocene started in the mid 1950s

From the AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY

Determining when humans started impacting the planet on a large scale

Humans have so profoundly altered the Earth that, some scientists argue, our current geologic epoch requires a new name: the Anthropocene. But defining the precise start of the era is tricky. Would it begin with the spread of domesticated farm animals or the appearance of radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests? Scientists report in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology a method to measure levels of human-made contaminants in sediments that could help pinpoint the Anthropocene’s onset.

The geologic record can sometimes provide clear-cut evidence of epoch changes. For example, when a meteorite collided with Earth 66 million years ago, levels of the metal iridium from the space rock spiked in sediments around the world. This clearly marked the end of the Cretaceous period. However, trying to define the start of the proposed — and much debated — Anthropocene could be more complicated. Human influence over the climate and environment began with the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, and accelerated dramatically in the second half of the 20th century. Many markers of human impact on the planet from agriculture, waste disposal and other activities have been archived in the planet’s sedimentary records. The rise in industrial chemicals, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, is another example of a human-driven activity that has been captured in sediment layers. To explore the record of synthetic compounds as a possible marker to help define the Anthropocene, Aurea C. Chiaia-Hernández, Juliane Hollender and colleagues turned to a new analytical technique combined with sophisticated data analysis to characterize patterns of contamination over time.

The researchers applied high-resolution mass spectrometry to investigate synthetic chemical contamination in two lakes in Central Europe. They examined 1-meter long cores from each lake bottom, capturing the past 100 years of sediment layers. According to the analysis, the lakes’ sediments contained few synthetic contaminants before the 1950s. But during the 1950s, concentrations of industrial chemicals started to appear in the samples, which is consistent with the boom in industrial activities post-World War II. The researchers say this record clearly demonstrates the beginning of large-scale human impact on the environment. It also shows a decline in contamination following the installation of wastewater treatment plants in the 1970s, providing evidence for successful mitigation measures. Additionally, the introduction of new pollutants that are now finding their way into surface waters can be discovered.

###

The authors acknowledge funding from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the Swiss National Science Foundation and Eawag.

The paper’s abstract is available here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b03357


One has to wonder if with all the pollution controls we have in place globally now, is there any sign of those chemicals that the authors claim signaled the start of the Anthropocene? Would the lack of those chemicals now signal the end of that epoch? It seems quite flimsy to me to base the beginning of entire epoch on a few lakes in Central Europe, especially since those chemical signals may be completely absent from the sediment layers forming now.

 

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124 thoughts on “Claim: The Anthropocene started in the mid 1950s

    • And when the get done with determining the exact date of the beginning of the anthropocene they can start working on answering the age-old question of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

      T Gannett

      • If the American Chemical Society didn’t find many traces of the fatal chemical weapons released copiously in Central Europe especially during the WWI, what’s all the fuss about the more recent, beneficial chemicals? They too will be undetectable in a similar geological blink of an eye.

  1. This is all very presumptuous and rather egotistical. I am now expecting a rather irritated Universe to swiftly arrange a large asteroid strike or sudden ice age. ;-)

  2. IFF there is an Anthropocene, it started when humans first started making significant geological changes to the Earth’s surface.

    Egyptians, Mayans come to mind !!

      • But for a chronostratigraphic Stage or Series to be defined, it must be biostratigraphically identifiable worldwide wherever that boundary exists. That certainly does not qualify for anything the Egyptians or Mayans did.

        You could theoretically find human fossils or trace fossils across the world going back at least 30,000 years, but in reality you would hardly ever find anthropogenic signs in rocks this old. Biostratigraphic markers are always based on marine fossils, so a terrestrial biomarker would be unique and unrealistic because the scarcity of terrestrial sedimentary rocks and terrestrial fossils.

        The ca. 1950 suggestion from this paper actually makes sense, because that’s probably the earliest time you could look back and always find an anthropogenic marker if you were millions of years in the future looking back at rocks formed today.

        Besides, if you were a geologist from a million years in the future studying this boundary and trying to determine a chronostratigraphic age for it, you already understand that chronostratigraphic boundaries don’t always occur at the same exact moment on all places on Earth, and +- a few tens of thousands of years would be quite precise in geologic time.

    • Roger Pielke Sr. points out that land use has an important effect on climate. link

      Scientists measure pollens in sediments to get an idea of what the local plant life was doing. link Pollens are part of the fossil record. link

      Early agriculture leaves a mark on the pollen record so I would say that the anthropocene extends back to at least 9500 BC. link Future paleontologists will be able to see evidence of human activity.

      On the other hand, various animals have a big effect on the environment. Does that mean that the buffalo herds that roamed the plains should have their own epoch? link

      • I would go along with this thinking, and the big ticket item here was the plough as this allowed for re-use of the same piece of land for cultivation and can be considered as the start of permanent human settlements. The switch from hunter-gatherer to planting and harvesting is the big switch in human civilisation and is a pre-requisite for the further development of a society.

        Of course, it then took many thousands of years before the impact of permanent settlements can be seen in geological differences so this isn’t really a good dating mechanism. At the same time, a few thousand years is pretty much the blink of an eye in geological terms – we are all too hung up on the asteroid impact change mechanism. Most geological ages take a very long time to come about, so to sit there and talk about any modern date is hubris of the highest order. The last 200 years (since the industrial revolution in the UK and the subsequent use of fossil fuels, starting with coal) are still absolutely nothing in geological terms.

      • Rob: You are correct, the plow. For example

        Note the Canadian flag on the plow platform. Thanks to warming, there is even more land up there to plow.

      • Minor addendum to my previous post. The US flag is also flying. Maybe they are plowing parallel to the border.

      • Rob nails it. Stratigraphic time units do not actually have a starting day, at so and so hour and minute. Some boundaries are sharp, like the K-T boundary, but start at different times on the planet and can vary tens of thousands of years. So arguing 1950, 1800, 4,000 B.C., or whenever you can find the oldest human fire pit, is nonsense, all answers would be correct from a retrospective point of view if that is indeed the exact time that the anthropogenic signature shows up in the rocks where you are looking.

    • But, according to these “researchers” the anthropocene didn’t start until a manufacturing plant was built upwind of these lakes.
      2 data points is not a definitive trend of anything! It seems these fools have never read the parable of the 3 blind men examining an elephant.

      • These three blind men have their heads up the elephants butt, they just think it’s the trunk.

    • I have to agree – if there is to be an ‘Anthropocene’ then I think it should start when we entered the world of virtual statistics/observations. Its getting to the state – certainly for me – where the actual temperature of the world is undecipherable from all the adjustments made. Considering we have entered an age of incredible accuracy, how come the recording of the climate has become less so by fiddling about with the results without promulgating the raw data?

      • Visicalc and its progeny are the real culprit, without these tools you would actually have to use your brain when looking at the data.

  3. They don’t have a more accurate start date than mid 1950’s ? Given the accuracy of the models they use I’m sure they could get a bit closer .
    I used my Commodore 64 to narrow it down to 16 janurary 1953 at around 12 noon .

  4. The population boom accelerated exponentially at the same time as the discovery of penicillin in the 1920’s
    Is there a correlation?

    • Penicillin was utilised much later than this (1940s), but the first anti-bacterial drugs (the sulphanilamides) were developed around this time and the impact “modern” medicine had in preventing death from communicable diseases pretty much started during/after WW1. Lots of other things happened around then as well and we all know correlation isn’t causation, but you have a point.

    • It is generally acknowledged that not only antibiotics, but prescription drugs in general (and recreational drugs) are showing up in our waterways. Unless they are biologically degraded, they have to end up somewhere!

      • Think about how many people in a city take every known medication and recreational drug that is partially excreted into the city water supply and are not removed by filtration or destroyed by chemicals or sunlight treatment and returned in tap water to the residents. Your daily washing and food preparation that is not boiling the water or high heat cooking to destroy those is ingested and topically absorbing a mixture of those drugs.

  5. Seems to me the alarmist would set this Anthropocene to the first discovery of humans using fire. Because according to them that’s when the demon CO2 started AGW.

  6. My first car was a 1928 Ford Model A, Plus Minus 6 miles to the gallon (of soup ) and maybe 100 miles to a quart of engine oil, and don’t even think about brakes and tires !”

    • nottoobrite

      My 2014 Mercedes E Class did 10,000 miles to 4 brake disks. The pads were less than 70% used. One would think someone would invent brake disks made from brake pad material and use steel for the pads. But no.

      There’s progress for you.

      • Patrick MJD

        Sadly, it was leased so I had no choice, it’s now gone back. It’s a common theme with manufacturers nowadays to bolster profits. A mate managed 17,000 miles from the disks on his brand new Hyundai.

        They also demand a service within the first 10,000 mile, or one year, whichever is the soonest so the warranty is honoured. My daughters brand new Vauxhall did 1,400 miles in it’s first year (she’s only been driving for a year) which cost £200 for an unnecessary service.

      • HotScot,
        Sintered-iron brake pads were developed for racing because of their resistance to fading from heat. They also resisted the problem of not working after fording a stream. They were commercially available for drum brakes during the 1960s and ’70s. However, they similarly shortened the life of brake drums. They are probably difficult to find these days. (Of course, asbestos has been outlawed.) My recollection is that the drums could be used through at least two or three brake jobs. What are your disc-brake pads made of?

      • Clyde Spencer

        “What are your disc-brake pads made of?”

        Judging by the wear rate, sandpaper :)

        Modern brake pads are largely developments of sintered pads with the associated excessive wear.

        However, I think the real problem is predatory car manufacturers who know no one compromises on their brakes so design them to be replaced after minimal mileage. At nearly £1,000 to replace 4 disks, it’s a nice little earner every 10,000 miles.

        When I retire to the country in 4 years, my car will be a refurbished, old Land Rover Defender. A nice galvanised chassis will see me out.

      • My 1994 BMW (325is) has about 230,000 km on it and has gone through only one set of rotors (and I suspect that the person doing the annual inspection had orders from management to replace the discs whether they needed it or not).

        My driving is largely in the country and I am easy on brakes, so that is one factor…..

      • HotScot,
        Sand paper reminds me of a story. Back inn the ’70s I had gone mineral collecting in Darwin District near Death Valley with some friends. There was a tropical storm while we were out. On the way back, we came to a long section of road that had washed out. I started out across the mud and boulders. I felt the engine start to bog down. By the time I could reach over and put the transfer case into 4WD, I was up to my frame in what was essentially quicksand! To make a long story short, I finally managed to get out, largely because after about an hour the sand had de-watered some. I had fine sand everywhere, including packed on the inside of my rims, which I had to dig out with a dead branch so that I could drive over 55 MPH. As a result of the sand, the throttle cable broke: that’s another story! On the way home, I was driving through Yosemite Park, and near Tuolumne Meadows, some tourist stepped in front of me to cross the road. When I hit the brakes, the car pulled sharply to one side but didn’t slow down appreciably. Fortunately, I missed the tourist. On the down side of the Sierras, I decided to take a steep shortcut called Priests Grade. I rode the brakes most of the way down, trying to drive off what I thought was residual water in the brake linings. When I got to the bottom, there was a stop sign. I practically stood on the brake pedal, and rolled right through the stop sign. Fortunately, there was no traffic on the main road. I drove home the rest of the way very gingerly. It was a Sunday evening when I got home. I parked the car, intending to take the Scout to a brake shop the next day. Monday, when I tried to back out, it wouldn’t move initially. Finally it broke loose. After getting to the brake shop I discovered that the sand had COMPLETELY worn the linings away, and overnight the metal of the linings had rusted to the brake drums. I needed new drums and linings!

  7. Only the irrational could believe such absurdity.

    sediments contained few synthetic contaminants before the 1950s. But during the 1950s, concentrations of industrial chemicals started to appear in the samples,”

    Grandstanding attempts to ignore all of mankind’s population spread over Earth in order to name future era’s based on quantitative analysis ability to measure “synthetic contaminants”; these crackpots should name that era the ‘Plasticene’ or ‘Synthocene’.

    We will always know the real name is ‘Adjustocene’, so wonderfully depicted by Josh. (Thanks for the reminder Nigel S!)

    • Soot levels in Greenland ice topped in c. 1915 and has declined since then. But coal soot is of course “natural” not “synthetic”.

    • “synthetic contaminants”.
      It seems to me that just what is a “synthetic” needs to be defined.
      Once that is done, it would need to be determined just when these “synthetics” were invented and came into wide spread use.

      PS Do they consider kerosene to be a “synthetic”? Man made it.
      It replaced sperm whale oil for lamps. (Much cheaper)
      As a result, sperm whales weren’t hunted to extinction.
      Is the present existence of sperm whales a result of the “Anthropocene”?
      Is that bad?

    • Agree – it is not rational to assume that merely because something appears in sediment somewhere it had any effect on anything. We can all agree that man – and other species of things has existed on earth for a long time – and left evidence. It is extremely egotistical to assume that just because evidence is left there must be some effect.

  8. Just egos wanting to be recognized. There is nothing that has happened in the last 50 odd years that would signal a new epoch. Imagine an Archeologist or whoever looking for objective evidence a few centuries from now???

  9. off piste but great for a laugh-

    “Climate change might be worse than thought after scientists find major mistake in water temperature readings
    The sea was much colder than previously thought, the study suggests, indicating that climate change is advancing at an unprecedented rate”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/climate-change-worse-water-temperature-reading-scientists-global-warming-ice-melt-weather-a8020696.html

    Warming of oceans due to climate change is unstoppable, say …
    Jul 16, 2015 · Seas will continue to warm for … Globally 90% of the excess heat caused by the rise in … The warming of the oceans due to climate change is now …

  10. “The methodology widely used to understand sea temperatures in the scientific community may be based on a mistake, the new study suggests, and so our understanding of climate change might be fundamentally flawed.”

    Wrong. Everybody knows the science is settled.

      • have to say i didn’t read it correctly but the key words were as you say-

        The methodology widely used to understand sea temperatures in the scientific community may be based on a mistake, the new study suggests, and so our understanding of climate change might be fundamentally flawed.

  11. Clearly, the Anthropocene[*] started on 1 January 1950 AD at 00:00. According to our current crop of PC manipulators [that’s PC as in Politically Correct, not Personal Computer, Prostate Cancer or Pretty Cool], that is when The Present started. It marks a dramatic global change:- before that, carbon dating worked but no-one knew how to do it; after that, carbon dating didn’t work but we did it anyway. It is also a symbol of the takeover of the asylum [the rational world] by the inmates [the PC ideologues – PC as in Political Control]. What kind of crazy person would replace a working system (AD & BC dates) with a non-sensical system (the meaning of “before present” depends on when you use it) that can only be defined by reference to the system it replaced (ie, the base date 1950 AD).

    [*] – I would prefer a more accurate name, maybe Sillicene or Wackicene, or if a more formal-sounding name is needed, Absurdocene.

  12. One good glacial maximum in a few thousand years and any stratigraphic markers of man’s presence in 1950 will be gone. I have a problem with the Holocene even, after all it is only one of many interglacials, why don’t the others have special names? But, at least the beginning of the Holocene has a type section of sorts (the NGRIP2 ice core) – where is the type section for the Anthropocene?

    • Any local landfill… LOL!!! When I was in college, I wondered if future paleontologists would try to reconstruct fossils from beer can pull-tabs… The only way the Holocene differs from the previous 6 or 7 Pleistocene interglacial stages is the extinction of many megafauna.

      • David, they won’t have a difficult time. Present day landfills are almost hermetically sealed, Well not really, but the water intrusion is drastically minimized so decomposition is almost non-existent. Dating will easily be accomplished from al the junk mail deposited there.

      • I think giving major chronostratigraphic units a type section is inherently silly. Lithostratigraphic, sure, they are regionally descriptive and a type locality is the best representative of that unit, but to pretend a single section represents that time for the entire world, like I said, is silly.

        The Carboniferous is a good example of this, in the U.S. this Stage is so thick that it’s split in two Stages, and there are probably lengthy biostratigraphic divisions in the U.S. that aren’t represented anywhere else on Earth. I’ve always considered chronostratigraphic type localities just something for science bureaucrats to be concerned about.

        The type section of the Holocene is the NGRIP2 Greenland ice core *major eye roll*.

        I was considering isotopes from nuclear tests a good index trace fossil, but then I just remembered that there won’t be much left of these isotopes in a few million years. Radioactive isotopes that will eventually decay probably won’t make a good marker, but plastics? Hard to say what will happen to them in geologic time.

    • That’s the whole thing about this: Where is the geological validity/utility?How does measuring certain chemicals in non-lithified (and probably ultimately transient) strata as a basis for a geological age change even work? What’s the global distribution? Is this only useful in a lacustrine environment? But this is what popped into my head this time:
      “I’ve defined a new geological age!”
      “Are you a geologist?”
      “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

  13. According to Philip Larkin, sexual intercourse began in 1963; so one can safely assume that the Anthropocene got underway 9 months later.

  14. What about the Dinosaurs with their affect on Earth with their own CO2, CH4 etc in/outputs was that the Dinopocene then? :-D

  15. Every form of life affects the environment, always have, always will. This is mere green flagellation. Utterly ludicrous.

  16. Depends on location. Check some of the lake sediments in France and you might want to move the date back to 1914.

  17. “It seems quite flimsy to me to base the beginning of entire epoch on a few lakes in Central Europe, especially since those chemical signals may be completely absent from the sediment layers forming now.”

    Toss in two bristlecone pines + truncate when the data turns Inconvenient™ = Bob’s your uncle.

  18. Human influence on the climate either started with farming, or when man learned he could use fire to make hunting easier.

  19. 8000 to 10000 years ago the australian natives cleared nearly the whole australian continent from its forests. Is this no human impact?

  20. If the Anthropocene must have a start date, then it should be the CO2 ppmv of when it exceeded its normal range compared to other interglacials. Perhaps using 280 ppmv in the atmosphere as the start date would be appropriate if we are to have our very own ‘age’ so that would make it about 1850, when the Industrial Revolution was just starting to get established. The geological record is fairly accurate in that previous interglacials had CO2 concentrations of about 280-300 ppmv for highs in their normal interglacial CO2 level.

    I recall Prof Ian Stewart on his BBC documentary show about geology and humans when he stated that it was because of human invention of agriculture that the next ice age was thwarted about 8,000-10,000 years ago. That seems to be a real stretch since Man’s agriculture practises at that point was minuscule at any scale during that pre-history period, and the present interglacial was just getting started with the Holocene Optimum and interglacial that would usually last at least 12 -15 thousand years. Since the HO, we have seen a gradual step down in temps with each new warming period, possibly indicating that we will slip into the next ice within a few thousand years. Hopefully, CO2 concentrations does supply a bit of warming, along with other convective heating by humans of every kind since a warming world is much more productive than a cooling world.

    • It is a fact that the CO2 curve in the Holocene has been very different from earlier interglacials. Normally it reaches an early peak and then declines. This time around it reached a minimum c. 6000 years ago and then started rising again.

    • The speculation that the Holocene would have ended but for agriculture has been thoroughly debunked. Few if any interglacials have been that brief.

  21. OK, what have I missed …?

    Mankind has made huge and profound changes to the climate but, in fact, they are so small that they cannot detect them. Have I got that right?

  22. This could be the ultimate naming-rights/appellation market ever: ‘The Anthropocene-Musk region abbuts the Anthropocene-Diddy region along the …’
    Just don’t let the UN get wind of this idea.

  23. Anthony,
    You said, “One has to wonder if with all the pollution controls we have in place globally now, is there any sign of those chemicals that the authors claim signaled the start of the Anthropocene?” Probably most, if not all, of the original contaminants are gone. But, they have also probably been replaced with new and different pollutants as technology changes. I think that the key to making the argument for an “Anthropocene” (which I don’t support), is, are there synthetic compounds being released into the biosphere and lithosphere that characterize human technology? There seems to be good evidence that there are. But, is this movement a political one to use as some kind of leverage (such as “ocean acidification”), or is it of any use in geology for unraveling the history of Earth? I doubt that it is the latter.

  24. In undergrad science back in the early 1980s we used to joke about the Anthropocene. Anytime we saw a bit of plastic or a tin can in the field, we’d say we found evidence of the Anthropocene.

    It was a joke.

    Were just kidding, I swear!

  25. Let’s call it the ‘MakeTheScene’….. It started in 1966.
    Mamas and Papas – Dancin In The Streets

  26. Let’s see, Central Europe, 1950’s; industrial pollution, magic eight ball says the Ecological holocaust called Communism is a more likely than humanity in general. I’m just spitballing of course but the dataset seems pretty thin to make the conclusion of a worldwide anthropogenic event.

  27. So are you saying that the possibility of Cumbra Vieja erupting in the next twelve months won’t figure into that scenario?
    Latest news on it.
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/871354/La-Palma-volcano-update-canary-islands-earthquake-Cumber-Vieja-dissolved-gas

    This is just silly. The THEY can’t leave anything alone, can they? They’re like my sister, the control freak personified. Maybe we could just ignore them? Or would they pluck at our sleeves and whimper and whine, because we maybe think they’re downright silly?

    At some point, this whole thing takes on the label of ‘the height of the ridiculous’.

  28. It just dawned on me, if you were to take these researcher’s as correct, many people alive today were born in the previous geologic Age. You old farts are living fossils! How does it feel to transcend Ages?

  29. And then there’s this [from 1994!]: “Ice pack reveals Romans’ air pollution”
    “They detected surges in the amount of lead – a by-product of the process of extracting silver from lead ore – at depths corresponding to the rise of Athens and Rome. They also found lead pollution from medieval and Renaissance silver mines.

    Finding lead in ice cores represents the oldest report of international atmospheric pollution, scientists say in today’s issue of the journal Science. ”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ice-pack-reveals-romans-air-pollution-1450572.html

  30. So, cutting and burning down primeval forests didn’t affect global climate? Nor the spread of agriculture and grazing?

    This is absurd.

      • How much of something on local environments affect global environment is the question. If a volcano erupts for a short period the affect is minimal globally and massively locally. How can such locally occurring situations cause global problems other than minutely? Only globally occurring situations cause global changes and only if they are massive enough to be measurable over time. Something these researchers implied was not measurable.

      • Johchi,

        Deforestation isn’t a local effect like an urban heat island. It was continental. Much of Europe and China, for instance, used to be forested, as was the eastern US. The woodlands were cleared for large scale agriculture, not the shifting cultivation of the Neolithic.

      • Mark,

        Deforestation on the scale of continents does indeed affect global climate. Turning Europe, Asia and North America, plus parts of the tropics, from forest to grassland or desert had much the same effect as did the natural replacement of boreal forest around the Pliocene Arctic Ocean to tundra in the Pleistocene.

        Maybe the effect on water vapor, clouds, wind, etc wasn’t major, but it is detectable.

  31. If human civilization ended today, in 600 million years there would be a very hard job to find a trace of us, the layer of strate would be so thin.

    That is without geological events making it even harder, human civilization would be too small for the resolution to even pick up this period of 70 years lol

    • This is to be remembered when evaluating the veracity of proxy representations of past conditions. They apply to a specific locale on the planet at a specific time, and may be extremely skewed by unknown processes which occurred during the interval of time.
      The expressions of certitude that the AGW’ers inflict on science are suspect at best. Mann’s proxies were cherry-picked B.S. that propped up a manifesto that was a complete joke scientifically. The fact that he hasn’t been drummed out of academia is a testament to the corruption of the entire field. They are just lying parasites, feeding off society’s fears and stoking them. Disgusting!

  32. “Determining when humans started impacting the planet on a large scale”.
    “Human influence over the climate and environment began” …..
    Two different issues. Clearly every large city has impacted the local environment, and every increase in population changes the environment to provide more food and water. And that presumably has impacted local climates.
    But impacting the planet? As oceans make up 71% of our planet, definition of the start of an Anthropocene would need to demonstrate a significant impact on the oceans and consequently on the global climate..
    Over geologic time sea level has fluctuated by hundreds of meters. Today’s interglacial level is near historic highs and is 130 meters above the low level reached during the Last Glacial Maximum 19,000–20,000 years ago. That is an average increase of 6 mm/year, currently it is increasing by 2-3 mm/year. So I will define the start of the Anthropocene if sea levels start to increase by 10 mm/year giving a rise of 1 meter over the next 100 years that can be attributed to human impacts.

  33. Detonate all of the nukes.
    Then we’d have the “Anthropocene”.
    We’d be living (well, some of us..maybe) in a Mad Max post-apocalyptic world where everybody is looking for fossil fuels or other carbon fuels to burn.

  34. I live in Manassas, Virginia, home of Bull Run, the Manassas Battlefield, and surrounded by other Civil War landmarks. As a history buff, I’m constantly going after clickbait Internets collections of photographs from the Civil War. During one of these journeys into yesteryear, something suddenly struck me with shocking force. Having seen most of the locales pictured, I realized with stunning clarity one major difference between back then and now. Today, Virginia is densely forested – “green” is an understatement. But in the pictures from back then, it was completely devoid of foliage.

    Exploring this further, I came to the realization that humans had pretty much deforested the entire mid-Atlantic region of the US for everything from construction lumber to wood for fuel, and for charcoal to fire the iron industry (before the discovery of the massive coal deposits in the region). All of that had been done by the middle 1800s, and the area didn’t begin to recover until the early 1900s (when farming shifted west, coal having long replaced charcoal). In my neighborhood, lots can’t be subdivided to less that 5 acres (to protect Civil War historical lands). The place is almost as heavily wooded now as it was before Europeans arrived in the New World, infinitely more so than it was 117 years ago, and wildlife is everywhere (we have two deer grazing in our front yard at this very moment).

    An earlier commenter asked whether two World Wars didn’t count, and that’s another great observation. World War I’s devastation of nature in Europe was breathtaking. But the huge effect people had on the American continent prior to the availability of fossil fuels (coal, followed by oil and natural gas) was even more staggering. Yet the land has now returned to a state not seen in almost a century and a half. I don’t think we ever permanently entered the “anthropocene,” but if we try powering ourselves with wind and solar, it will definitely kill the planet.

    • Britain now imports US wood pellets rather than burning its own coal.

      The Midwestern and Southeastern hard and softwood forests weren’t all burnt and cut down until about the time that the Atlantic Seaboard began to grow trees again, around the turn of the century.

      The last confirmed wild passenger pigeon is thought to have been shot in 1901. The last of her species, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

    • Same for Europe over the last 1000 years or more. Had to find any virgin forested areas. Everything was cleared and burnt, especially before the age of coal and fossil fuels.

      I am just watching a nature TV doc on SE Asia, Vietnam and the Mekong Delta as I write. It would be hard to know that the Vietnam war even happened now, having grown in completely by jungle. I think we underestimate the power of nature to heal itself. Having said that, we still need to take care of the planet, although with a tad of common sense.

  35. “Humans have so profoundly altered the Earth that, some scientists argue, our current geologic epoch requires a new name: the Anthropocene.”

    This is not the name of a geological era, this is the name of a scientific paradigm shift. This moniker “Anthropocene Age” was appropriately given to the scientific paradigm in which the goal of science itself is to test thousands of useful chemical compounds for the sole purpose of convicting them of either being a carcinogen or of harming a delicate ecosystem.

    The method for many decades was overdosing mice and rats in studies. It was assumed that effects on rats and mice were equivalent to the effects on humans.

    After overdosing animals, it was then determined that the exposure of the contested chemical must be reduced to zero in the environment.

    Many of these compounds are as natural as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Many are present in the human body or are produced by the human body.

    This is the Hippyscene.

    • Another goal of science in the Anthropocene Age Scientific Paradigm is to constantly groom the public for green products that will save the planet. Is Bill Gates selling something like say, a new process for wastewater, by chance?

  36. If you are going to have a new era the obvious one is about a million years ago when ice started to be deposited in Antarctica. Ice has more or less continued to be formed since then as borne out by the near complete record of core recovered from Vostok. Though Vostok did not bottom in basement, subsequent remote sensing by NASA during Operation IceBridge of Vostok to Dome C in 2013 clearly indicated the existence of an unconformity between the ice and the underlying basement. This is where you can place a ‘Cene boundary if you are so inclined.

    • The East Antarctic Ice Sheet began to be deposited about 34 million years ago. And built up very rapidly in the early Oligocene Epoch. It wasted a bit during the Miocene.

      • Gabro – the oldest ice recorded is about 2.7 million years ago. The information was released a couple of months ago from quite shallow depths as well. Known as ‘blue’ ice this part of the ice record offers some amazing insights. The ice record pre 1 million years does seem rather truncated. No date we will see some more data come out in the months ahead.
        https://newatlas.com/oldest-ice-core-ever-antarctica/50973/

      • https://earth-pages.co.uk/2013/11/27/earths-first-major-glacial-epochs/

        You are talking about existing ice and not what existed back 2.7 billion years ago that disappeared and have been replaced with 3 other ice ages that we live in this last one now.. Previous glacial periods have totally disappeared to just traces left of them during the Interglacial Periods between them. That there is as much glacial ice now proves we are still in this ice age and a true Interglacial Period has not happened and with current understanding of the solar minimum that is more than likely going to have another event like the “Little Ice Age” within this century… An Interglacial Period is not happening in any of our lifetime.

    • If by that you mean that there is no Anthropocene, or that it’s the same as the Holocene, then I’ll agree with you.

  37. Yes, but Anthropocene was interrupted for 8 years during the Obama presidency. He said so himself.

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