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HUMANITIES SCIENCE POLITICS
Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598x, 25th November, 2016. 18.00 GMT
By Helen Gavaghan, Mytholmroyd, UK.
Geologists are to take to the field internationally to finally determine the
proposed nature and time of the boundary between the Holocene, our
current geological Epoch, and the as yet informally named
'Anthropocene' - a time when human action dominates the geological
stratigraphy. That such a new Epoch and boundary exist seems almost
certain to be accepted, according to Jan Zalasiewicz, chair of the
Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), the first of the official bodies
which must accept the scientific case of a formal Anthropocene.
Evidence to date comes from meta analyses, says Zalasiewicz. Field-
work will not simply be an exercise in confirming a pre-existing
conclusion, he told me this week.
An optimistic view is that needed research can be completed in three
years. Zalasiewicz is not so sure. If the scientific community is to
accept a transition from Holocene to Anthropocene as a formal
stratigraphic reality the AWG and its parent bodies, up to the
International Union of Geological Sciences, must be convinced. Thus is
international science undertaken, and new norms, correlates and
baselines established for global scientific endeavour, irrespective of
The first substantive step toward formalising the existence of an
Anthropocene was taken this August when the AWG presented the find
ings of their work since 2009 to the International Geological Congress in
Cape Town. The group's majority opinion was that the Anthropocene
concept is geologically real, and of sufficient scale to be included in the
International Chronostratigraphic Chart. Should the scientific case for
the majority opinion be accepted the Holocene would be terminated,
and Earth and its inhabitants will be living in the Anthropocene Epoch,
but still within the Quaternary Period and Cenozoic Era.
By majority vote the AWG concluded the correct geological time unit
Issue 4 (October - December), 2016. Volume VII. Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598x.
Published Friday 25th November, 2016
A print version would additionally have two blank pages, so this version is not routinely for sale as print, unless really wanted.
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