Adding Fuel to the Fire

If I were on the International Commission on Stratigraphy, I’d vote for the “Anthropocene” as a legit epoch that began about 1,000,000 years ago when humans harnessed fire. My reasons for this timeframe are purely aesthetic. Fire, in my mind, serves as a fitting and poetic beginning to the Anthropocene and humanity’s ultimate destruction of global environments. Fire was when our species first “learned how to tap the energy reserves stored in detrital carbon” (Malm, 1). This primitive technology sparked our intentions to burn of fossil fuels, create steam engines, and drive automobiles a million years in the future. Unfortunately, my definition overlaps with the Holocene and Pleistocene, and therefore reworking of the current epoch map needs to be done. I suppose that’s why I shouldn’t be making these decisions. In reality, the Industrial Revolution, about 1800-1850, is the probably best scientific designation for the Anthropocene. Before industrialization, human “impacts remained largely local and transitory” (Stephen, 615). The preponderance of evidence suggests that Industrialization is humanity’s most substantial force on the climate. Industry’s agriculture, deforestation, and carbon emissions will be stored in the geological record for millennia (Kolbert, 3).

When an entire political side isn’t supposed to believe in climate change for fear of disassociation, creating a bi-partisan solution is practically impossible. Policy makers and scientists have reduced complex climate science to generalized statements about groups and regions thereby forging a polarized public. “Culturally polarized democracies are less likely to adopt policies that reflect the best available scientific evidence” (Kahan). Dr. Whitlock’s simple yet brilliant strategy was appealing to the regionality of her audience. By treating people as unique individuals of a certain time and place Whitlock can hold her audience’s attention. For example, to inform Montanan farmers on the changing climate you talked about predicted precipitation and temperature in rural Montana. Perhaps placing the public into oversimplified groups is counterproductive, and a real constructive solution will come when we treat people as the complex individuals they are.

One thought on “Adding Fuel to the Fire”

  1. Great post, Ben. I agree with the introduction of the “Anthropocene” to the geological time record. Since the Industrial Revolution has caused the most substantial impact on the climate, I also agree that it would be the best time to place the beginning of the new epoch. Your second paragraph is an excellent analysis of political divides causing climate opinion divides. Climate change has seemingly become a partisan issue when in reality it is a problem that will impact us all. I also think your proposal to appeal climate change to people with information about its effects on their area could prove to be very beneficial. Perhaps if people understand how a changing climate will directly impact them in their area, they may be more open to discussing possible solutions.

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