Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:
As recently as 2012, scientists have confirmed there is life on Earth. Do not underestimate the effect life can have on a planet. Do not underestimate the even greater effect of intelligent life.
The term Anthropocene is a fairly new addition to the scientific lexicon. It’s still unclear whether or not the term will stick.
Anthropocene loosely refers to the era of Earth’s geological history when human beings (anthropos is Greek for human) have had the greatest geological impact on the planet.
How have we impacted the geology of our planet? Just think of all the digging we do. Think of all the minerals we’ve extracted from Earth’s crust. Think of how acid rain weathers the landscape or how garbage decomposes (or sometimes doesn’t), changing the makeup of the soil, the atmosphere, the oceans…
Think of all the effects of artificial rather than natural processes: this is the meaning and significance of the Anthropocene epoch.
Of course, the use of this term is not without controversy. Geological epochs are supposed to correspond to rock strata. They’re supposed to have clearly defined boundaries. Where, exactly, is the boundary marking the beginning of the Anthropocene? There isn’t one, yet, because we’re still living in it.
In the future, especially the distant future, the boundaries of the Anthropocene might be very easy to identify. Hundreds or thousands of years from now, the Anthropocene may be a well-established historical and geological fact. Or maybe not.
So do you think characters in a Sci-Fi future would talk about the Anthropocene epoch? If they do, what would they say?
P.S.: Throughout the month of April, as part of the 2015 Mission to the Solar System, we’ll be exploring the planet Earth—in many ways the strangest planet in the Solar System, for reasons you might not expect.
What Is the Anthropocene and Are We in It? from Smithsonian.com.