Humans have pushed the Earth into a new geological era. Called the Anthropocene, it is the result of accelerated climate change brought on by rapid urbanization, pollution, and accelerated usage of natural resources, concluded scientists in a new study.
Scientists have claimed that humans have eroded the Earth so much that they are responsible for pushing it into a new chapter of geological history. Incidentally, it had begun in the early 1950s itself, but the changeover is fairly recent. Scientists now have definite proof that humans have permanently altered the Earth through the widespread use of concrete, aluminum, plastic, and nuclear weapons, as well as the burning of coal and gas, reported the Tech Times.
To date, there were mere indicators that humans have been leaving traces of their actions on the Earth. However, with the findings of the new study, geoscientists have gathered “overwhelming evidence” that humans have permanently and irreversibly altered the whole Earth system.
A geological era, more commonly recognized as an epoch, is a subdivision of a time-scale created specifically for Earth’s geological history. It is a little longer than an age (like the Stone Age), which is marked by the increased use of a particular metal or technology, but a lot shorter than a period (like the Jurassic period), which is distinctively identified by the prolonged duration of a dominant weather pattern and species, reports Bill Insider.
For the past 11,700 years, the Earth was going through the Holocene Epoch, reports the Daily Mail. A relatively mild geological era, the Holocene can be characterized by the remarkably stable weather patterns and the distinctive lack of earth-altering phenomena like an asteroid strike, abnormal temperature rise, or sub-zero temperatures. These milder times have invariably helped the dominant species, i.e. humans, to evolve at an unhindered and remarkably accelerated pace.
From the basics of human settlements to the modern civilizations, the Holocene Epoch has been instrumental in helping the humans thrive on Earth. It was during this time that humans developed, mastered, and have begun to abuse the art of agriculture to increase food production for the ever-increasing population. The humans built lasting urban settlements and became quite adept at leeching water, mineral, and energy resources of the planet, reported Phys.
Scientists believe a time of rapid environmental change was kickstarted by the impact of population explosion, rapid industrialization, and consumerism during the “Great Acceleration” of the mid-20th century. It is this time that has been proposed to be the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch. Until now, scientists were merely proposing the Anthropocene era as an hypothesis to repetitively demonstrate the massive and permanent negative impact that humans have had on the planet’s atmosphere and species, reported ZME Science.
However, a new review, published in the journal Science, has concluded that the human activity has left a pervasive and persistent signature on Earth. Such a change can be recognized as a new geological time unit, said Dr. Colin Waters, principal geologist at the British Geological Survey and an author on the study.
“We could be looking here at a stepchange from one world to another that justifies being called an epoch. What this paper does is to say the changes are as big as those that happened at the end of the last ice age. This is a big deal.
“Potentially the most widespread and globally synchronous Anthropogenic signal is the fallout from nuclear weapons testing. It’s probably a good candidate [for a single line of evidence to justify a new epoch] … we can recognise it in glacial ice, so if an ice core was taken from Greenland, we could say that’s where it [the start of the Anthropocene] was defined.”
Incidentally, scientists have blamed the sudden spike in nuclear weapons testing that accelerated the phenomenon of the Earth entering a new geological era.
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