Into the Anthropocene

The mark of human civilization will last long after humans go extinct, according to this article looking at the anthropocene, or the age of humankind.
February 22, 2011, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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Writing for National Geographic, Elizabeth Kolbert explores the creation of the concept of the anthropocene and what impact it will have in the geologic history of the earth.

"The group agreed to look at it as a formal problem in geology. Would the Anthropocene satisfy the criteria used for naming a new epoch? In geologic parlance, epochs are relatively short time spans, though they can extend for tens of millions of years. (Periods, such as the Ordovician and the Cretaceous, last much longer, and eras, like the Mesozoic, longer still.) The boundaries between epochs are defined by changes preserved in sedimentary rocks-the emergence of one type of commonly fossilized organism, say, or the disappearance of another.

The rock record of the present doesn't exist yet, of course. So the question was: When it does, will human impacts show up as "stratigraphically significant"? The answer, Zalasiewicz's group decided, is yes-though not necessarily for the reasons you'd expect."

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Published on Sunday, February 20, 2011 in National Geographic
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