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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Strategic CSR - Anthropocene

The article in the url below announces the dawn of a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene. This new epoch, which is estimated to have begun in 1950, is the result of human impact on the planet's ecosystem and replaces the Holocene epoch:
"The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene."
The graphic accompanying the article demonstrates the short period of the planet's history within which humans have existed. Of course, this also ably demonstrates how we have been able to screw things up in such a short period of time:
The designation of a new geological epoch is something that is not taken lightly. Currently, the proposal to label the current period 'Anthropocene' is before the International Geographic Congress, which met recently in Cape Town:
"To define a new geological epoch, a signal must be found that occurs globally and will be incorporated into deposits in the future geological record. … For the Anthropocene, the best candidate for such a [signal] are radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests, which were blown into the stratosphere before settling down to Earth. … Other [signals] being considered as evidence of the onset of the Anthropocene include the tough, unburned carbon spheres emitted by power stations. … Other candidates include plastic pollution, aluminium and concrete particles, and high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in soils, derived from artificial fertilisers."
There are still several steps in the process that need to be taken before the new label can be officially declared:
"The 35 scientists on the WGA [working group seeking to define the new epoch] – who voted 30 to three in favour of formally designating the Anthropocene, with two abstentions – will now spend the next two to three years determining which signals are the strongest and sharpest. Crucially, they must also decide a location which will define the start of the Anthropocene. Geological divisions are not defined by dates but by a specific boundary between layers of rock or, in the case of the Holocene, a boundary between two ice layers in a core taken from Greenland and now stored in Denmark. … Once the data has been assembled, it will be formally submitted to the stratigraphic authorities and the Anthropocene could be officially adopted within a few years. … Despite the WGA's expert recommendation, the declaration of the Anthropocene is not yet a foregone conclusion."
Whether or not the new epoch is approved, the evidence supporting the devastating effect of human existence on the planet's evolution is not in dispute. As the article concludes, human activity has:
- "Pushed extinction rates of animals and plants far above the long-term average."
- "Increased levels of climate-warming CO2 in the atmosphere at the fastest rate for 66m years."
- "Put so much plastic in our waterways and oceans that microplastic particles are now virtually ubiquitous."
- "Doubled the nitrogen and phosphorous in our soils in the past century with fertiliser use."
- "Left a permanent layer of airborne particulates in sediment and glacial ice such as black carbon from fossil fuel burning."
Whatever we call the period in which we dominate life on Earth, the challenge is to see if we can rectify some of the damage before it is too late.
Take care
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The Anthropocene epoch: Scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age
By Damian Carrington
August 29, 2016
The Guardian