Globaïa released a short film in 2012 titled Welcome to the Anthropocene, that is, the age of large-scale human influence on Earth. We’re posting it today as part of our celebration of Earth Science Week, which begins today (October 14, 2012). This 3-minute film takes you through the last 250 years of human history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution in England around 1750 to the Rio+20 Summit – commonly known as the first Earth Summit – held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The Planet Under Pressure conference, held in London in March 2012, commissioned the film.
Globaïa says of the film that it:
… charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.
And watching it powerfully conveys that idea. It was the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen who popularized the term Anthropocene (Eugene F. Stoermer of University of Michigan coined it) beginning around the turn of the 21st century. These scientists used this term to describe the influence of human behavior on the Earth’s atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Our geological era is currently officially called the Holocene by scientists, and it’s defined as having begun around 12,000 years ago, as the last major ice age was ending. The word Holocene stems from a Greek words meaning whole or entire and recent. Crutzen and Stoermer suggested Anthropocene instead to convey the idea that our human influence is now so significant as to warrant the start of a new geological era. Read Crutzen and Stoermer’s original proposal to re-name our geological era the Anthropocene.
It’s what we at EarthSky call the Human World. What is a human world?
Many scientists are now using the term Anthropocene to describe our era. For example, the Geological Society of America titled its 2011 annual meeting: Archean to Anthropocene. For Earth Science Week 2012, the American Geosciences Institute listed as one of its nine big ideas in Earth science the fact that humans significantly alter the Earth.
Many people in the U.S., in particular, still resist the idea that humanity can exert a major influence on Earth. For example, the media debate in the U.S. (it is not a scientific debate, and it is not as heated in other countries as here) over climate change hinges for some on the disbelief that we humans could affect Earth so profoundly as to change its climate. As centuries pass, as humanity moves forward from our time and as our ancestors look back, they might accept the notion of our powerful human influence more readily.
Bottom line: In 2012, Globaïa released a short film titled Welcome to the Anthropocene. EarthSky is showing it again today in Celebration of Earth Science Week, October 14-20, 2012. The film takes you through the last 250 years of human history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution in England to the first Earth Summit in June 1992. The Planet Under Pressure conference, held in London in March 2012, commissioned the film.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.