What is the Anthropocene?

The Anthropocene is a term for the current geological age, defining this age by the changes humans have wrought on the planet. Technically, the Anthropocene isn't an accepted term; it's one that many environmentalists favor as a more apt descriptor than Holocene, but with which some geologists disagree (since we can't pinpoint a geological spot for the start of the Anthropocene) [1].

Some environmentalists argue that we, in fact, are leaving our mark in the geologic strata. Authors Jason W. Moore and Raj Patel make the case for layers of buried chicken bones giving future generations a clue about our time here during the early 21st century [2]. Whether or not you agree that the chicken bones will actually provide geological information in future, Moore and Patel use the chicken industry as an example of the far-reaching consequences human activity and industry has on this planet, and also on us. (By the way, Moore and Patel have taken the concept of Anthropocene further, and specifically talk about damage to the environment due to capitalism (hence the term "Capitalocene" [2]) but that's a topic for another post, so for now I'll encourage you to read the source below!)

I like the word Anthropocene because it encompasses more than just climate change. Though climate change has become a catch-all phrase for humanity's impact on the planet, it underscores the issues that we will face due to a warming globe. But climate change is only one aspect to this human impact. Climate change doesn't directly address topics like microplastic pollution, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, water shortages, agricultural nutrient runoff, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and all the rest. Saying "the environment" is another way people describe the current planetary issues, and another worthy choice. However, the word environment doesn't specifically mean the human effects on the environment, even if it may have that connotation depending on how you use it.

Anthropocene may not be an accurate geologic term, but it works to describe the human effect on the Earth. As I use this blog to discuss what I learn as a student of environmental science and call attention to helpful resources, I'll be using the term Anthropocene to describe the human effects on the planet.

[1] Stromberg, Joseph. What Is the Anthropocene and Are We in It? Smithsonian

[2] Moore, Jason W. and Raj Patel. Unearthing the Capitalocene: Towards a Reparations Ecology. Roar Magazine


Popular Posts