Did you know we are living in an Anthropocene Age? Yep. According to geologists, humans have so messed up our planet in the last 12,000 years that we have created a new epoch of geological time. Marked by monocultures and mass extinction of species, the Anthropocene Age means, “human epoch” and is truly a time to call our own.
Geological time is perhaps the slowest and least affected shift of time. Usually marked by millions of years rather than a few lifetimes, it seems ludicrous that the effect of humans could have such an immense force as altering it. But a growing number of scientists say there is substantial evidence that humans have drastically changed the Earth, and the Holocene Age (which we are in now) is over.
The idea is that through introduction of invasive species amplified by global warming and mass extinctions the fossil records and sediment changed. Different looking rock results in a different age. Thus we have a new name.
The soot created by the industrial revolution alone has left its “fingerprint”on the world.
The Holocene Age started after the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. It is already widely regarded as the age of humanity, specifically the switch from hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agricultural. The drainage of bogs, deforestation and intensive agricultural practices have already dramatically changed our environment.
There is a heavy debate in the scientific community about whether the change of the industrial revolution warrants a new name, and a small majority claims that only in a couple thousand years would it be legitimate to declare a new time period.
However you slice it, the scientific community agrees that humans have significantly affected the world. Whether it was just once or many times, our mark has been left on Earth. There has been an effect so significant that it has altered rocks. So, why don’t people think that our actions effect anything greater than ourselves? Why does the majority of America believe that global warming is manmade but only fictionally so?
I work as a janitor in an environmental consultant agency’s office. In between analyzing who people are by the content of their trash, I end up reading a lot of fact charts about indigenous people pinned up everywhere. The charts cover anthropological evidence of some ancient tribe’s existence in New Mexico, complete with depictions of a pueblo people wearing grass skirts in the middle of a mesa landscape.
The expansion of humans across the world seems bizarre at times; a vision of a time with no water bottles, no flint and not even a Starbucks in sight is daunting.
The same thing crosses my mind with astronauts, but at least satellites went before them to scope the area out a little before they strapped themselves to a rocket and flew into the abyss.
You know things continue to exist even if you don’t see them.
This seems to be the problem that people have. They don’t realize the impact they have on Earth. We have changed this environment to the point that it is unrecognizable.
With unlimited space to move and grow our migratory instincts are strong, but at this point we stretch far across the Earth. There is no more outward expansion, only upward growth.
As an extension of our evolution, humanity has used technology to compensate for what our physical bodies can’t do. Miles under the ocean and above the ground, we are everywhere — places that even after they are reached seem impossible.
Living this way is out of touch with nature. Too many distractions exist, and we no longer have a choice how to live as a species. We don’t have fur or talons; we cannot return to the wild.
Lay down and close your eyes and picture the world. Feel the turn of Earth and imagine the satellites orbiting above you, and then picture the space in every direction. Even if there isn’t infinite mass, there is space. We exist in a universe that we cannot fully fathom. We can accept the existence of things, but compared with how much we can personally prove or even see, after a while, you just have to take people’s word for it.
I say: Embrace it — our new epoch. We are here, so let’s make the best of it. Just because we now own a layer of sediment that has our name on it, doesn’t mean it has to be full of soot.