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Geology’s Timekeepers Are Feuding

Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. The Prehistoric Earth Other Editions 1. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Early Humans , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Epochs are defined on a global level, and their beginning and end are dated to specific points in time.

Holocene - Wikipedia

Hominins first appear by around 6 million years ago, in the Miocene epoch, which ended about 5. Our evolutionary path takes us through the Pliocene , the Pleistocene , and finally into the Holocene, starting about 12, years ago. The Anthropocene would follow the Holocene. A visual representation of the breakdown of geological time. The Anthropocene would come after the Holocene. The beginning of the Anthropocene is a subject of heated debate among geologists, anthropologists, and others in the scientific community.

In order for the Anthropocene to become officially recognized as a geological epoch by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, a start date must be recognized that is global and can be defined stratigraphically by biological, chemical, or other types of markers. Some geologists argue that this is impossible to identify because we are still within the range of variation of any signal that might distinguish recent strata from earlier ones, or because human activity is diverse enough that no single moment universally distinguishes a period of time separating the Anthropocene from the Holocene.

But even among those who believe that this beginning date can be pinpointed, there is still considerable disagreement.

Some argue that the Anthropocene began with the advent of agriculture, because certain agriculture-related activities such as rice paddy irrigation and deforestation may have led to sharp rises in concentrations of CO2 and methane as early as 8, years ago i. In this period, not only did our testing and use of atomic weaponry leave a distinctive radioactive signature in the sediments of Earth, but almost all human activities from water use to fertilizer consumption to globalization saw a dramatic intensification iii.

The sharp upward spike in all of the trends displayed on this graph show how human activity has increased since the Great Acceleration. No matter when it began, the concept of the Anthropocene is significant. It highlights the scale of our impact on Earth. By defining a new geological epoch, we are declaring that the impact of our activities is global and irreversible. It allows us to unite many different discussions regarding the state of the planet, from climate change to loss of biodiversity to environmental degradation, by identifying the one thing they have in common: they have all been affected by human influence.

Human pollution shows the impact of the Anthropocene on many issues. It destroys natural landscapes and poses a critical danger to many animals who may consume or become entangled. The Anthropocene also allows us to reexamine the relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.

There has been a long-standing narrative of humanity and nature being separate; some believe that we should be the caretakers or stewards of the natural world, while others urge us to leave the environment alone and let nature run its course. But human activity is intrinsically linked to nature, and is part of it. From the land we live on to the resources we use to the trash we throw away, everything we do is tied into and impacts our surroundings. The concept of the Anthropocene underlines this fact by defining the environment based on the interactive effects of our influence.

The only question now becomes how we can shape our activities so our impact on the environment is intentional and leads to meaningful outcomes. We all know that humans have unmistakably influenced the planet, but what does that influence look like? The most familiar parts of this story are where we have most physically altered the planet.


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Greenhouse gasses such as CO 2 carbon dioxide , CH 4 methane , and N 2 O nitrous oxide caused by fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes are increasingly concentrated in our atmosphere, causing heat to become trapped on Earth and resulting in rising global temperatures iv. The projected estimate for mean surface temperature increase by is 6. On our current path, ice cap melt will cause sea levels to rise to levels where many major cities will be at very high risk of flooding, and natural disasters will cause damage to our communities at catastrophic levels on a much more regular basis vii.

Forests are shrinking at a startling pace — every year, we lose a swath of forest the size of Massachusetts viii. All of these problems are exacerbated by an ever-growing human population, which has more than doubled in the last fifty years. But while climate change is one of the most visible parts of the Anthropocene, it does not paint the whole picture of our influence.

Everything from damming rivers to paving roads to illuminating public spaces has changed the physical makeup of the planet in some aspect, creating a world that has truly been shaped by humans. Human creativity has produced some incredible achievements.

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We have created the technology to produce high-yielding food crops with the capacity to support more human life than ever before. We can plant crops far from water sources, control the temperature inside our living spaces, enjoy leisure time and luxuries, and walk on the moon.

We have invented cures for diseases that were once catastrophic. We can travel anywhere on Earth at incredible speeds in cars, ships, and airplanes. These innovations in transportation and communication have given us the means to connect with our fellow human beings, learn about new cultures, and maintain relationships all around the globe. Access to cell phones and the internet have allowed humans to connect to and communicate with people around the globe nearly instantaneously.

Specifically, it is thought that deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, and other human activities have resulted in an atmospheric "greenhouse effect" which is responsible for prolonging relatively warm interglacial conditions. All rights reserved. However, it is believed that there were 2 or more glacials with intervening interglacials. Between the Pleistocene and the preceding Pliocene Epoch was a long period of gradual cooling.


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Pliocene 5. Gibbard and T. Gradstein et. Many geologists prefer for now to lump the Yarmouth, Kansan, Aftonian, and Nebraskan together into a single pre-Illinoian stage. The se time ranges are approximations and do not reflect the fact that temperature changes between major cold and warm phases of the earth's history usually occurred over long periods of time and that the cold periods varied in temperature and were not consistently cool.

Changing Climate Patterns of the Pleistocene Epoch. Climat e. Regional Name for Climate Stage. European Alps.

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North America. Evidence of glaci al and interglacial episodes during the early Pleistocene is less clear. Previous Topic.