16 Mai 2016 Lasă un comentariu
Humans and the environment have never been separable. But what does the idea mean for politics?
By Katrina Forrester
The idea of the “Anthropocene” was first proposed in the 1970s, and came into widespread use in the early 2000s. Scientists began to argue that there had been a seismic temporal shift, from the geological epoch inhabited by humans, known as the Holocene, to one in which humankind had itself become an agent of geological change. Initially, the term was adopted by the “global change” research community: natural and social scientists studying global warming, climate change, and other planetary “symptoms” of the Anthropocene era. By the late 2000s, the idea had been taken up by geologists, who look to stratigraphic evidence—rocks, glacier ice, marine sediment—to measure the chemical composition of the global atmosphere and chart the impact of human activity on it. Later this year, the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy will meet to decide whether enough evidence exists (and, if so, whether it would be scientifically useful) to designate the Anthropocene as an official geological epoch.
Among scientists, and for those across the humanities—particularly environmental historians, who have taken up the idea over the last decade—the question of exactly when the Anthropocene began is still up for grabs. Some date it to the introduction of fire, many others to the development of agriculture or the Industrial Revolution; still others, for reasons less immediately obvious, insist on the start of the Cold War. The chemist who introduced the idea tied its origins to the geological changes (such as increased atmospheric CO2, methane, nitrate, and lead concentrations) that occurred following the surge in coal and other fossil-fuel use by the 1780s, but since then other, even more specific dates have been fielded as geological markers—“golden spikes,” in stratigraphic terms—denoting when atmospheric changes significant enough to warrant a break in geological time took place.