GEOL 5903 Seminar: Mathieu Bilodeau

December 3, 2019 (12:00 pm - 1:00 pm)

3 December 2019

GEOL 5903 Seminar: Mathieu Bilodeau
Title: The “Anthropocene”: conceptual perspectives, misconceptions, and possible futures
Location and Time: Huggins Science Hall, Room 336, 12:00 p.m.
Many people distinguish the term "Anthropocene" as Earth's most recent geologic time interval. It is a proposed epoch during which human activity is considered to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology of the Earth. The frequent usage of the term creates the misconception that the "Anthropocene" is already a formal unit of the geological time scale, even though it has yet to be recognized by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The controversy surrounding the formalization of the Anthropocene as a new geological epoch focuses mainly around the starting point of this new unit. The establishment of these temporal limits is complex but also essential in the definition of any new chronostratigraphic unit. The review of the historical genesis of the Anthropocene would help in understanding how the concept arose within the Earth Science community and evolved over the last twenty years. Various anthropogenic signatures in the geological record that could be used for the formalization of a new geological epoch are analyzed and compared against the official requirements established by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The strongest and most globally synchronous of these markers is made by the artificial radionuclides spread worldwide by the thermonuclear bomb test from the early 1950s. The formal establishment of an Anthropocene epoch would mark an important transformation in the relationship between humans and the Earth. It would assert that we are not passive observers of Earth's functioning and that humans' actions are driving far-reaching changes to the life-supporting infrastructure of Earth.

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