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"Is human activity altering the planet on a scale comparable to major geological events of the past? Scientists are now considering whether to officially designate a new geological epoch to reflect the changes that homo sapiens have wrought: the Anthropocene.

The Holocene — or “wholly recent” epoch — is what geologists call the 11,000 years or so since the end of the last ice age. As epochs go, the Holocene is barely out of diapers; its immediate predecessor, the Pleistocene, lasted more than two million years, while many earlier epochs, like the Eocene, went on for more than 20 million years. Still, the Holocene may be done for. People have become such a driving force on the planet that many geologists argue a new epoch — informally dubbed the Anthropocene — has begun.

In a recent paper titled “The New World of the Anthropocene,” which appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a group of geologists listed more than a half dozen human-driven processes that are likely to leave a lasting mark on the planet — lasting here understood to mean likely to leave traces that will last tens of millions of years. These include: habitat destruction and the introduction of invasive species, which are causing widespread extinctions; ocean acidification, which is changing the chemical makeup of the seas; and urbanization, which is vastly increasing rates of sedimentation and erosion.

Human activity, the group wrote, is altering the planet “on a scale comparable with some of the major events of the ancient past. Some of these changes are now seen as permanent, even on a geological time-scale.” (

2. Pierre Charbonnier:

"The Anthropocene is, firstly, the name given to a new geological epoch in which the effects of human activity, notably CO2 emissions, define the conditions in which geophysical layers and atmospheric equilibria are formed: it is the human age, in the sense that human beings have become the dominant geological force. Numerous debates have ensued over the proper periodization of this epoch. Beyond these discussions, it is crucial to see how the Anthropocene quickly became a flashpoint for those seeking to diagnose contemporary society from an environmental standpoint, including those who reject the term for epistemological or political reasons. The common denominator of all positions in the debate, whether they hail from the natural or the social sciences, is that climate change is the decisive entry point for understanding the present. To speak of the Anthropocene is to suggest that climate change and its consequences are catalysts of an empirical and normative synthesis of our global present. Whether the topic is species conservation, resource management, international law, defense, or the future of democracy, Anthropocenic rationality presents itself as an extremely broad framework to which all inquiries are likely to lead. Of course, the wide array of social sciences do not all participate in this debate to the same extent, if only for reasons of thematic preference and the division of intellectual labor; many other analytical paradigms exist for understanding the historical present and engaging in its critique. We will argue that the theoretical propositions relating to the Anthropocene may affect social and political knowledge in its entirety, since the social milieu in its broadest sense has been redefined and reshaped by the implications of global climate change."


More Information

* Article: A Genealogy of the Anthropocene. The End of Risk and Limits. By Pierre Charbonnier. Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales Volume 72, Issue 2, 2017, pages 301 to 328 The English edition of this journal is available at [1]


"Our goal here will be to explain the emergence of this intellectual paradigm and assess the conditions for such a theoretical endeavor to succeed."


Compiled by jasonmk1 [2]

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