A working council of geologist voted 34-0 (with one abstention) to determine that Planet Earth has entered into a new geological epoch, Anthropocene. The decision was announced at the 35th International Geological Congress, held in South Africa. The possibility that the previous epoch, the Holocene — which Earth had been in for the past 11,700 years since the end of the Ice Age — had ended has been a question for quite a while, now. So what characterizes the Anthropocene epoch?
Not just the presence of humans, but the impact of humans. We have fundamentally changed the planet, and not necessarily for the better. We have tested nuclear bombs that have left radioactive particles. We generate a lot of plastic waste. We generate a lot of waste in general, so pollution is a big problem. We use fossil fuels that leave ash behind. Those things, in combination with warming global temperatures, high sea levels, erosion, and more have actually changed the earth’s rock formations.
And while the Anthropocene was just officially decided and announced (pending approval from the International Union of Geological Sciences), scientists say that the new epoch actually began around the mid-20th century, and many of them cite July 16, 1945 as the specific date when the Holocene ended and Earth entered into the Anthropocene. Why July 16, 1945? That was the date of the first nuclear bomb test in New Mexico. As more bombs were tested, global radiation levels rose throughout the early 1950s — something which has had a significant impact on the planet. Scientists have been monitoring it since to be certain that the changes were permanent, but the effect humans have had on the planet can no longer be denied.
Earth Has Been in the Anthropocene Epoch Since Mid-20th Century, Scientists Say