Monday, May 30, 2011

Reshaping the planet on a geological scale

The cover story in the Economist magazine this week is "Welcome to the Anthropocene" where they discuss the assertion that "Humans have become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale—but at a far-faster-than-geological speed."

The term Anthropocene was coined in 2000 by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen with a colleague, Eugene Stoermer, to represent "the recent age of man.” Since then it has gained notoriety and some traction. In the introduction of the magazine article they note:

"A single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tonnes of earth—twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year. That sediment flow itself, meanwhile, is shrinking; almost 50,000 large dams have over the past half- century cut the flow by nearly a fifth. That is one reason why the Earth’s deltas, home to hundreds of millions of people, are eroding away faster than they can be replenished."
When the term Anthropocene first showed up, it was seen as clever but now the Economist makes the case that it is real and leaving one of the most distinctive marks in the geologic record.

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