Human influence comes of age : Nature News
Humanity's profound impact on this planet is hard to deny, but is it big enough to merit its own geological epoch? This is the question facing geoscientists gathered in London this week to debate the validity and definition of the 'Anthropocene', a proposed new epoch characterized by human effects on the geological record.
"We are in the process of formalizing it," says Michael Ellis, head of the climate-change programme of the British Geological Survey in Nottingham, who coordinated the 11 May meeting. He and others hope that adopting the term will shift the thinking of policy-makers. "It should remind them of the global and significant impact that humans have," says Ellis.
Some at the ICS are wary of formalizing a new epoch. "My main concern is that those who promote it have not given it the careful scientific consideration and evaluation it needs," says Stan Finney, chair of the ICS and a geologist at California State University in Long Beach. He eschews the notion of focusing on the term simply to "generate publicity".
Others point out that an epoch typically lasts tens of millions of years. Our current epoch, the Holocene, began only 11,700 years ago.