PerspectiveGeology

Defining the epoch we live in

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 38-39
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7297

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  1. What's in a name?

    The industrial era has been a time of greatly accelerated environmental changes (1, 2), but it was preceded by large and important transformations, including massive large-mammal extinctions in the Americas and major changes associated with the spread of agriculture, including the spread of domesticated crops and livestock (5), land clearance, forest cutting, habitat transformations (6, 9), irrigated rice paddies (7), soil erosion (10, 11), and anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere (8). These anthropogenic changes would not be included if the “Anthropocene” is defined by the first atomic bomb test in 1945 (3). Future changes, e.g., in species extinctions and ocean acidification, are projected to be much larger than those already seen, but are difficult to predict.