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Not for the Anthropocene | EOS Science

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Photo: Skyline of Shanghai. Credit: Wikimedia

It is undeniably true that human activity has skyrocketed over the past three-quarters of a century. Man has become a geological force. So argued Paul Crutzen, frustrated with the endless debate about the Holocene, at a conference in Mexico in 2000. According to him, we have been living in the Anthropocene since the British Industrial Revolution. geologist Aleksei Petrovich Pavlov introduced the term in 1922. In doing so, he indicated a new era in which human activity had become the dominant geological force.

Crutzen’s comment about the “Age of Man” had major consequences and hit like a bombshell.

Crutzen won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 for his pioneering work in the field of atmospheric chemistry. His work was a cornerstone in solving the ozone hole we caused ourselves with our innovative refrigerators. Progress has its price. But we usually don’t want to see it.

Satellite observations showed that this hole was there. At first it was thought that this was not possible and that it was a measurement error. No attention was paid until the British Antarctic Survey confirmed these observations with measurements in Antarctica. Politics then quickly intervened to reverse the threat we posed. This led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which protects the ozone layer and leads to its recovery.

Comprehensive vision: Earth system

Crutzen founded and launched his concept of the Anthropocene in 2002 in a short publication. The Geology of Mankind in an authoritative journal Nature. In this story, he pointed out the human influence on the earth system. He mainly discussed climate change and many other topics such as deforestation, energy consumption, air pollution and industrial overfishing. To solve all these self-inflicted damages and problems, he also presents the idea of ​​large-scale geoengineering projects to optimize the climate crisis.

Over the past fifteen years, a heated debate has arisen between supporters and opponents of this concept. I am an ardent opponent. This is partly due to an attempt to have the Anthropocene recognized as a new geological era. I think that’s a huge overestimation of yourself Wise man, a self-styled “sensible man” alienated from nature because of his technology. Still, man, like the grasshopper, is only a part of nature. You might wonder if modern humans can be geologically compared to the all-destroying locust disease.

The other side of the coin

Like Crutzen, I place the beginning of the Anthropocene conveniently in Britain’s Industrial Revolution, which swept the world like an innovative steamroller. The development of the fossil fuel-powered steam engine plays a decisive role in this. With progress and a firm belief in it, greenhouse gas emissions grew steadily. That strange, almost naïve belief of ecomodernists and many politicians that the technology that caused all this will once again solve our problems is mistaken.

In general, it can be said that pollution on an unprecedented industrial scale is the downside of technological progress. It took shape Jan met de Cap, his wife and children on the back. Inhumane living conditions, social abuses and unprecedented pollution of air, land and water are its consequences.

This polluting trend has continued despite all the new technologies. The current three planetary crises are also a result of this. We are now facing the real limits of growth, the limits of the system, which makes our and our grandchildren’s future very uncertain.

Is the unknown Anthropocene here to stay?

It was a complicated process to get this new era recognized by the responsible International Commission on Stratigraphy of the Geological Society of London. For more than a decade, people have been looking for signals or golden spikes to find physical evidence of the fault line in geologic history that we have created and that can be found all over the Earth. A well-known example of such a gold spike is the impact of a large meteorite that causes iridium to appear all over the Earth. This impact marks the end of the Cretaceous period and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Scientific research shows that there are many possibilities for such a golden spike. These go back hundreds, tens of thousands or millions of years in human history. Bookshelves full of articles have been written about it and new journals have been founded.

A large number of potential Golden Spikes for demarcating the Anthropocene have been widely considered and reported in the media. Because of this, the concept of a new era gained popularity only among environmentalists, historians, anthropologists, some geologists, artists and performers.

Ultimately, the “Anthropocene Working Group” led by Jan Zalasiewicz recommended that the middle of the last century provides the best signal. This is in response to strong economic growth, population explosions, urbanization, globalization, and rapidly increasing energy use since World War II. The strangest proposal was the use of atomic bombs, the fallout of which can be found everywhere. I think it describes well the destructive power of our technology. This force is nothing compared to the force of nature, as we see from earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. It is a clear sign that we no longer know our place in nature.

The International Stratigraphic Commission rejected the proposal on March 5. This temporarily closes the curtain on the attempt to put the “Age of Man”, the Anthropocene, on the map as a geological epoch. But it is highly doubtful that the concept will disappear.

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