Anthropocene

Anthropocene

The Anthropocene [an-thruh-poh-seen] is a proposed geological epoch that marks the impact of human activities on the Earth’s ecosystems. The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth’s atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological era for its lithosphere (the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet). As early as 1873, the Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani acknowledged the increasing power and impact of humanity on the Earth’s systems and referred to the ‘anthropozoic era’

The Anthropocene has no precise start date, but based on atmospheric evidence may be considered to start with the Industrial Revolution (late 18th century). Other scientists link it to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture. Human influence on land use, ecosystems, biodiversity and species extinctions, may have begun as early as 10,000 years before present. This period (10,000 years to present) is usually referred to as the Holocene by geologists. For the majority of the Holocene, human populations were relatively low and their activities considerably muted relative to that of the last few centuries. Nonetheless, many of the processes currently altering the Earth’s environment were already occurring.

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