Meiying Lin

Anthropogene – The definition, boundary and relevant issues

The Anthropocene is a geological term, which has been brought up widely recently. It stands for the era when human activities have the main influence on the Earth. The global impact changes the atmosphere, biosphere, marine and terrestrial environment on Earth. The academic circle first discussed to what extent human affect have the Earth systems such as the impact of greenhouse gases emission, shrinking species or sea level rise.

In paper ”When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth century boundary level is stratigraphically optimal” (Jan Zalasiewicz, 2015), the authors evaluate the geological time interval of the boundary of the Anthropocene as an era. Three main period of Anthropogene is defined: the early era, the beginning of Industrial Revolution (post 1800 AD) and ‘Great Acceleration’ of the mid-twentieth century (after the Second World War) till now.

It has been a debatable issue for the last few years to define the Anthropocene Epoch among the media, academics and the general public. One main issue addressed to the Anthropocene is where the starting points (i.e. the boundary) should it be. 140 years ago, a termed ‘ Anthropozoic era’ was initially proposed to reflect the human impact to the Earth (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000 and Crutzen, 2002). After over 100 years of study, the term has been widely accepted (Steffen et al., 2007). In 2011, The Economist magazine had issued a special edition covering this topic, reviewing academic articles for the top-tier journals (such as Science and Nature). In both social science and geology, the designation of Anthropocene is a milestone for it was built since 1873 by Antoion Stoppani, an Italian geologist, (Crutzen, 2000 and Crutzen 2011). It is formally established by Zalasiewicz et al (2015) and accepted as new era within the International Chronostratigraphic Chart. Williams et al., 2011 and Waters et al., 2014a have published their examination, aimed at examining the geologically justification of Anthropocene, the usefulness of its formalization is useful, and the definition and characteristic. 

The damage of human activities has everything to do with growing population. At present, the world population is over 7 billion, producing an accelerating amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane (Crutzen and Steffen, 2003). Similarly, the land and ocean have been experiencing an explosion of human exploration: lumbering, farming, fishing, factory building or oil extracting. In every sector, human activities have proven to be altering/damaging the global eco-system at a speed so much fast than the self-adapt speed of the Earth. Al Gore, the former US vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner at 2007, is now devoting his life in climate-change research. In his keynote at TED in 2009, he presented his research results of how human activities and growing population have accelerated climate crisis at a pace so worse than we predicted (keynote available at http://www.ted.com/talks/al_gore_s_new_thinking_on_the_climate_crisis).

Other issue of Anthropocene lies in the impact to environment, to future humanity and the security of human life. Despite the ever-growing greenhouse effect and climate, the biodiversity has been a serious issue. A termed called ‘biopolitics’ is created for liberal societies. Climate change is merely one direct reason of the biodiversity issue and controlling climate change is one of strategies ‘biopolitics’ solution.


Reference

Crutzen, P.J., Stoermer, E.F., 2000. The “Anthropocene”. Global Change Newsletter 41, 17e18.

Crutzen, P.J., 2002. Geology of mankind. Nature 415, 23. Davis, R.V., 2011. Inventing the present: historical roots of the Anthropocene. Earth Science History 30, 63e84.

Jan Zalasiewicz et al , When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth century boundary level is stratigraphically optimal, Quaternary International, Volume 383, 5 October 2015, Pages 196-203, ISSN 1040-6182, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2014.11.045.

Mike Walker, Phil Gibbard, John Lowe, Comment on “When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth century boundary is stratigraphically optimal” by Jan Zalasiewicz et al. (2015), Quaternary International, 383, 196–203

Quaternary International, Volume 383, 5 October 2015, Pages 204-207

Steffen, W., Crutzen, P.J., McNeill, J.R., 2007. The Anthropocene: are humans now overwhelming the great forces of Nature? Ambio 36, 614e621

Williams, M., Zalasiewicz, J., Waters, C.N., Landing, E., 2014. Is the fossil record of complex animal behaviour a stratigraphical analogue for the Anthropocene? In: Waters, C.N., Zalasiewicz, J.,

Waters, C.N., Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Ellis, M.A., Snelling, A., 2014b. A stratigraphical basis for the Anthropocene? In: Waters, C.N., Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Ellis, M.A., Snelling, A. (Eds.), A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene, Geological Society, London, Special Publications 395, pp. 1e21. http://dx.doi.org/10.1144/SP395.18. First Published Online March 24, 2014

Williams, M., Ellis, M.A., Snelling, A. (Eds.), A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene, Geological Society, London, Special Publications 395, pp. 143e148. http://dx.doi.org/10.1144/SP395.8. First Published Online October 25, 2013

Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., 2014. The Anthropocene: a comparison with the OrdovicianeSilurian boundary. Rendiconti Lincei, Scienze fisische e naturali 25 (1), 5e12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12210-013-0265-x. First Published Online December 3, 2013

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