Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

Our Changing Earth

"Considering ...[the] major and still growing impacts of human activities on earth and atmosphere... it seems to us more than appropriate to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology by proposing to use the term 'anthropocene' for the current geological epoch."--Paul Cruzan and Eugene Stoermer

Change has always been a constant on planet Earth, a recognition that goes back at least as far as the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus's observation that "Everything changes and nothing remains still... you cannot step twice into the same stream" (Reeves 1998).

Yet change today seems different both in pace (fast) and source (us). The middle of the 20th century began what has been dubbed a "Great Acceleration," a rapid and profound transformation of humanity's relationship with the natural world. We populate the Earth with seven billion people, with two billion more soon to follow. We develop and urbanize landscapes and build artificial islands off the coasts of Dubai and China. We move mountains to extract coal, we level rain forests, we drain wetlands. We carry invasive species to new locations and destroy habitat for other species, causing a crisis of mass extinction. We dam some of the planet's greatest rivers for hydroelectric power and deplete aquifers to grow crops. And, most alarming of all, we continue to pollute the atmosphere with dramatic effects on climate, extreme weather events, the ocean, and other Earth systems.

All this has led scientists to consider whether such human impacts are widespread and lasting enough to warrant the christening of a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. …

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