Did the Anthropocene Begin with a Bang or a Drumroll?


How do you mark the instant when human impacts so changed the planet that the signs will remain embedded in Earth’s rock record for time immemorial? That is essentially the question that three important new scientific studies published online within days of each other tackled this month, in trying to figure out when the time we now live in, the Anthropocene, began.

I have more than a passing interest in that question, because in my job as a paleontologist, I’ve dedicated three decades to trying to understand whether, in the long run, humans are like any other creature that eventually ends up fossilized, or whether we hold a special place in nature — as the drivers, rather than the passengers. I’m also one of the 38-member Anthropocene Working Group, the international committee charged with assembling the evidence that will help answer such questions. And finally, in my role as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, I often teach my students about geologic time — and not infrequently watch their eyes glaze over as I do.

Until I get to the Anthropocene, when everybody tends to perk up, because that’s all about something near and dear to —> Read More Here


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