Anthropocene Schmanthropocene

I would reject the Anthropocene because of the inability for scientists to agree on whether it’s actually a thing. I agree that humans have altered the planet, but the effects haven’t been fully discovered yet. “According to one hypothesis, early agricultural development, around the mid-Holocene, affected Earth System functioning so fundamentally that it prevented the onset of the next ice age.” (Steffen, 615) The biggest difficulty with adopting a new epoch of time is that we don’t yet have the rock record to tell us when this new epoch should begin. “Some scientists argue that we’ve not yet reached the start of the Anthropocene–not because we haven’t had a dramatic impact on the planet, but because the next several decades are likely to prove even more stratigraphically significant than the past few centuries.” (Kolbert)

Climate change is one of those subjects that I’ve found you shouldn’t really bring up in social situations, much like politics and religion. It’s become so highly polarized that even intelligent people will throw science to the wind to maintain the status quo. When Dr. Cathy Whitlock went around to discuss climate change with Montanans, they didn’t refer to it as climate change. By changing the words to something that felt less loaded, they were able to get people to actually discuss the topic with them without getting defensive. I think that getting people to talk about touchy subjects in a non-threatening environment is the biggest way that we can incite change. “Overcoming this dilemma requires collective strategies to protect the quality of the science-communication environment from the pollution of divisive cultural meanings.” (Kahan)


2 thoughts on “Anthropocene Schmanthropocene”

  1. Kathleen,
    You raise valid concerns about discussing climate change with others, how even the nomenclature used can cause people to react differently. This is a hurdle we must overcome in order begin to tackle the challenges of climate change on a grander scale. Many people struggle to see how climate change is anything different than the past events the Earth has gone through, and therefore are unable to see the human factor. I believe if we started identifying the Anthropocene as starting with the growing impact of humans on the planet (sometime around the Industrial Revolution) it would become more real to others. The fact the world is going into record temperature changes and atmospheric CO2 levels can clue scientist in to a change in epoch, as well as the standard means of geological study (tree rings, ice cores, glacial receding, etc) on samples since the 1900s.

  2. This is a good blog and I think you have a good argument. I would like to pose a couple counter arguments, though. One reason you give for rejecting the Anthropocene is that we have not seen all the affects of climate change and the human foot print yet. However, the geologic time scale represents a process of how the Earth has changed. The start of a specific change is also the start of a new era. Even though we do not have a rock record of the Anthropocene, we are leave traces that may one day be found in this record. Despite the argument that the next several decades will more impact can be traced back to the lifestyles and policies we lead today and previously in the industrial era.

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