Have Humans Burned Their Way into History?

The International Commission on Stratigraphy is supposed to decide on whether or not to include the Anthropocene epoch to the geologic time scale. I think if I had a vote within the commission, I think that it would be extremely difficult to decide which way to vote. At first, my knee jerk decision would have been to vote yes. I personally would place the beginning of this epoch around the year 1000, when humans began their first significant use of coal (Steffen, 615). Although at this time, coal usage is nothing compared to what it became during the industrial revolution, it still marks the beginning of mass burning of condensed carbon, and human caused climate effects. This being said, I can also understand the argument for placing the beginning of the epoch closer to the 1800’s when the industrial era really kicked off and we saw huge uses of fossil fuels. On the other hand, when have learned with past readings that however improbable, it is still technically possible to slow human effects on the climate. This would cause me to hesitate from immediately voting yes, because it is still possible that we could change our ways of life, and cut back on emissions and possible prevent a huge extinction event such as the end-Ordovician. Taking this into account, I would still end up voting yes, mostly due to the fact that I think there is too big of a political fight about trying to fight climate change, that by the time if action is decided upon, it’ll be too late.

Dan Kahan argues in his article that people fight against climate change not necessarily because of a lack of understanding, more so because they don’t want to be outed by their peers and cultural communities. This has created a problem, especially in the United States, because a large part of the world is trying to push for more environmental friendly policies, but some countries are trying to fight it. Personally, I think that the best way to encourage conversations about climate change my be to switch the topic towards trying to educate not only about the science behind it, but also the idea that disagreement on this topic isn’t based on lack of knowledge of the subject. Basically, I believe that if we can get cultural communities to be more accepting of these ideas (not necessarily to agree to the ideas), then climate science conversations will be able to commence on a larger scale.

2 thoughts on “Have Humans Burned Their Way into History?”

  1. I think you have a very good point about the political effects on the belief in climate change. I appreciate that your view is we need people to accept these ideas, not necessarily agree on them. In order to make a difference maybe the focus shouldn’t be on when the Anthropocene started, but the fact that it exists. If more people believed, more work could be done to make a difference in climate change. I think your point is very effective. What do you think could be done to get more people to believe in climate change and the human effect on it?

  2. I completely agree with you in your first paragraph that the fight of climate change is a political fight. But I also have to disagree with you that coal usage is nothing compared to what it used to be. We are still using coal at alarming rates when it comes to the degradation of the environment. We are still mining for it and we are still using it; it would need to stop completely to save the environment. It’s no longer a decision of using “less,” it’s more of a decision of stopping. I agree with you in your second paragraph about accepting versus agreeing. There is a huge difference. We should accept that it is true, and worry less about agreement it is true.

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