Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Anthropocene



            We have entered a new era, it is called the Anthropocene, it is defined as the time when humans have started having major ecological effects of the environment, but at what point do you mark its beginning?

            Do you go back to the beginning of the industrial revolution when humans started burning massive amounts of coal and deforesting entire swaths of land.  Started farming on an industrial scale and breaking the back of the grasslands?

            Do you go back as far as the beginning of rice paddy development in Asia and the increase in global methane that came with the beginning of humans and the cultivation of crops?

            Do you jump all the way back to the humans and the extinction of mega-fauna on all of the continents?

            Or do you stay more recent and go with the development of plastics and land-fills.

            Or do you stick with something that is really obvious and has already been shown to have left a major mark and use the dropping of the first atomic bomb as your marker.

            Which ever marker you choose the results of the anthropocene are rather incredible, even if, as humans, we barely see the end results of all of our actions.  But we are already seeing major species loss from destruction of habitat.  We are seeing a rise in global temperatures at a time when the global temperature of the northern hemisphere should actually be falling.  We are seeing pollution on a global scale as a result of our throw-away society.

            The next question is what is next for our planet?  Will the anthropocene mark the end of more species than we anticipated, like possibly our own?

            I hope that humans can eventually figure it out and realize that it is possible to power even our energy dependent society on renewables. 
           
            No really, it can be done.

            But we have stripped the planet of most of the easily accessible hydrocarbons, and we have now had to start going after the more and more difficult to access resources.

            I would love to say that we at least have some progress to report on becoming a more cleanly world, but I have little to report on that front.  We do have some good things coming like wind farms and solar, but the amount in the United States is still too small to make up for the increase in need that we are developing.

            We should start making progress towards using some cleaner energy sources, even nuclear is far less polluting than just burning more coal.   Although the hippies will never agree to it as part of their NIMBY mentality, the disposal of sealed canisters of nuclear waste in granite batholiths does actually make sense, especially considering that granite batholiths are radioactive anyway.

            In conclusion we have the era that we have brought upon ourselves, and we have to get through this era, or it will be our own species that gets shown to be one of the markers of it.  We need to work together and develop something renewable, clean, and efficient so that the anthropocene becomes a learning experience, and not a terminal marker.

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