Welcome to the Anthropocene Epoch

Jul 14, 2023

Geologic Time

Scientists say that people have changed the world so much that we are in a new time period. This new time is called the "Anthropocene," from the Greek anthropos, meaning human, and kainos, meaning new. We have been in this time since around the 1950s. 

A group of experts called the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) says they have proof. They believe a small lake near Toronto, Canada, shows that we are in this new time. They picked Crawford Lake from 11 possible places. This is because the lake is deep enough to keep signs of human activity in its sediment.  

“The remarkably preserved annual record of deposition in Crawford Lake is truly amazing,” Marcia McNutt told The Associated Press (AP). She is the president of the US National Academies of Sciences. 

In Crawford Lake’s mud, scientists have found things like harmful particles and signs of climate change . These all match up with what people were doing about 70 years ago or even longer. The AWG says these findings show that people's actions have had a bigger effect on the Earth than anything else. Because of this, they believe we've moved on from the time after the Ice Age (Holocene) into the Anthropocene.

Scientists divide time into big chunks. They call them eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages. The time we are in now is the Cenozoic era. It won't end until all the ice at the poles has melted. But the experts warn that this is exactly what might happen in the Anthropocene.  

“If you know your Greek tragedies you know power, hubris, and tragedy go hand in hand,” historian Naomi Oreskes told the AP. She added that if we don't stop our harmful activities, "we are headed for tragedy.”  

Reflect: What impact do you think humans have had on the Earth in the last 100 years?

If readers wanted to learn about the two most current geological epochs, they would want to reference _______. (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. the article only
b. the infographic only
c. both the article and the infographic
d. neither the article nor the infographic
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