From: James Scourse, Bangor University, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published January 21, 2016 06:04 AM

Is calling the current time Anthropocene helpful?

The just as policemen keep on getting younger, epochs keep on getting shorter, writes James Scourse. The Cretaceous endured for 80 million years, but our latest invention, the 'Anthropocene', will be lucky to last out the century. And humanity's vain preoccupation with the idea may, ironically, only bring forward its termination.

The adoption of the term 'Anthropocene' is misleading. Worse than that; it has stimulated a redundant, manufactured, debate that displaces more important scientific research and genuine discussion on climate and environmental change.

At a public seminar at a respected university in Scandinavia on how to promote cross-disciplinary research last year, the dean of one of the faculties passed the comment that "now we are living in the Anthropocene, everything we see around us, everything in our environment, we realise is the result of human activity."

This, of course, is nonsense. The reach of human activity is demonstrably profound, affecting nearly all biogeochemical cycling within the Earth system, but to attribute all the changes we observe to human activity is wrong.

Humanity has no control over the output of solar radiation by the sun, the astronomical position of the Earth, or the internal processes that drive plate tectonics and volcanic activity. All three profoundly influence humans but operate entirely independently from human activity.

Family at the zoo image via Shutterstock.

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