We kind of knew it already, didn’t we, but it’s sobering nonetheless to have the bare facts confirmed in perhaps the most convincing way imaginable.
The geological history of the planet’s 4.6 billion year history is divided into units called epochs, passages of time characterised by whatever the dominant forces are deemed to have been during the period in question. The 10,000 years since the last ice age are known as the the Holocene epoch, but now a working group of researchers have put forward a compelling case for its successor, the Anthropocene epoch.
If ratified by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the body responsible for such matters, this will mean that we have finally entered a brand new geological age – one fashioned primarily by us .
And ‘finally’ does seem the most apt word to describe this change – both in the sense that it’s happening after a long period of time, but also, more chillingly, that unless we’re very careful indeed it could be the last epoch we’re around to witness.
A recent article by the BBC’s science correspondent, Jonathan Amos, covers the emergence of this new geological age, when it seems likely to be confirmed that we, Homo sapiens, have become the dominant influence on the environment and climate.
He also refers to an interesting new book on the topic by Gaia Vince, called Adventures In the Anthropocene.