The proposal that the impact of humanity on the planet has left a distinct footprint, even on the scale of geological time, has recently gained much ground. Global climate change, shifting global cycles of the weather, widespread pollution, radioactive fallout, plastic accumulation, species invasions, the mass extinction of species—these are just some of the many indicators that we will leave a lasting record in rock, the scientific basis for recognizing new time intervals in Earth's history. The Anthropocene, as the proposed new epoch has been named, is regularly in the news.
Even with such robust evidence, the proposal to formally recognize our current time as the Anthropocene remains controversial both inside and outside the scholarly world. Instead, the Anthropocene has emerged as a powerful new narrative, a concept through which age-old questions about the meaning of nature and even the nature of humanity are being revisited and radically revised.
This Very Short Introduction explains the science behind the Anthropocene and the many proposals about when to mark its beginning: the nuclear tests of the 1950s? The beginnings of agriculture? The origins of humans as a species? The Anthropocene remains a work in progress. Is this the story of an unprecedented planetary disaster? Or of newfound wisdom and redemption?
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