What is the Anthropocene?

Eos, Earth and Space Science News



Since Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer introduced the word “Anthropocene” in 2000, scientists and nonscientists alike have used the word to highlight the concept that we are now living in a time when the global environment, at some level, is shaped by humankind rather than vice versa. Humans have significantly altered Earth’s land surface, oceans, rivers, atmosphere, flora, and fauna.  By its emphasis on the here and now and on what humans have done and can do in the future, the word “Anthropocene” has served as a call to action for environmental sustainability and responsibility [Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000; Waters et al., 2014; Ruddiman et al., 2015].

So far, however, the term “Anthropocene” has not been integrated into the official Geologic Time Scale, which geologists use to divide the past into named blocks based on the rock record. In 2016 or thereabouts, the International Commission on Stratigraphy—the scientific body that maintains the official Geologic Time Scale—will consider a proposal to formalize a definition of this term. It’s a decision that has both semantic and scientific implications and may have legal implications as well.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title What is the Anthropocene?
Series title Eos, Earth and Space Science News
DOI 10.1029/2015EO040297
Volume 97
Issue 2
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center
Description 2 p.
First page 6
Last page 7
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N