The Anthropocene as a geological epoch has been invalidated

The Anthropocene as a geological epoch has been invalidated

We live in the Holocene – the geological era of the Quaternary, which officially began 11,700 years ago – and will remain there for the time being. This was decided by a majority of nearly two dozen geologists from the Subcommittee on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS), the decision-making body of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). Stratigraphy is the science that studies the succession of geological layers as layers, and determines their beginning and end in time.

Have we entered a new Anthropocene epoch, and if so, what layer and markings in the rock can mark its beginning? A working group – the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Anthropocene, established in 2009 – has been working to answer these questions for more than a decade. In 2016 they chose to give it a geological reality set in the mid-20th century during the “Great Acceleration,” a period marked by an increase in radioactive deposits from nuclear testing (particularly plutonium), the remains of burned fossil materials and microplastics. And the landmark: Lake Crawford in Canada and its 10-centimetre-thick sediment that recorded all these changes. For their proposal to be finally accepted, their proposal had to be validated successively by SQS and then ICS.

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