You've might have been living in the Anthropocene epoch, and you probably didn't know it. The new geological epoch started in about 1950 and is defined by the effects humans have had on the Earth, according to a group of experts who presented Monday a recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, the Guardian reported.
A host of factors have apparently taken Earth into this new epoch. "The warming temperature, higher sea levels, ash from fossil fuels, plastic waste, a dramatic increase in erosion, the spread of animal species around the world and radioactive particles left around the world from nuclear bomb tests would all contribute to permanent changes in the Earth’s rocks, the scientists said," wrote the Independent.
The current official epoch, the Holocene, has covered the last 12,000 years or so of stable climate since the last ice age. All of human civilization has developed in that period. The onset of the Anthropocene epoch is not a new proposition. It was first brought up in 2000 by scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, according to the Independent. And scientists were also claiming the new epoch three years ago, arguing that "human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts," wrote Smithsonian Magazine at the time. It represents a major shift.
"The significance of the Anthropocene is that it sets a different trajectory for the Earth system, of which we of course are part," saidJan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester and chair of the Working Group on the Anthropocene, which started work in 2009, to the Guardian. "If our recommendation is accepted, the Anthropocene will have started just a little before I was born... We have lived most of our lives in something called the Anthropocene and are just realizing the scale and permanence of the change."
From here the group has to work on finding data using layers of rock or Earth to prove the shift in epochs and formally submit findings to the stratigraphic authorities. And while a recommendation for the Anthropocene has been made, a formal declaration of the new epoch would likely take years and is not a foregone conclusion.