• The results, found in a new research. are published in the journal Earth’s Future in London
  • The impact that human beings have made on the Earth in terms of production and consumption of natural resources has formed a ‘striking new pattern’ in the planet’s global energy flow
  • It showed definite signs that human beings have permanently changed the planet and have triggered Anthropocene — an era where humans dominated Earth’s surface geology.

Characterstics of the era

  • mainly characterised by the patterns of human production and consumption .
  • Human beings have seized something like one quarter of the net primary biological production of the planet.
  • Humans are increasing productivity well above natural levels – by the following processes
  1. by digging phosphorus out of the ground
  2. by fixing nitrogen out of the air to make fertilizers;
  3. by exploiting hundreds of millions of years worth of stored carbon-based energy, .
  • This refashioning of the relationship between Earth’s production and consumption is leaving signals in strata now forming, and this helps characterise the Anthropocene as a geological time unit

Research published in journal Anthropocene Review 

  • The first paper by Steffen et al, published in the journal Anthropocene Review, charts the Great Acceleration in human activity from the start of the industrial revolution in 1750 to 2010, and the subsequent changes in the Earth System (the sum of our planet’s interacting physical, chemical, biological and human processes), using a planetary dashboard of 24 global indicators.
  1. Twelve indicators depict human activity, for example, economic growth, population, foreign direct investment, energy consumption, telecommunications, transportation and water use.
  2. Twelve indicators show changes in major environmental components of the Earth System, for example, the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and biodiversity.
  • This planetary dashboard highlights how the trajectories of Earth and human development are now tightly bound.
  • Major changes were expected since 1750, but dramatic increases have occurred since 1950
  • For example, since 1950 urban population has increased seven-fold, primary energy use has quintupled and fertilizer use has increased eight-fold.
  • In turn species are becoming extinct more than 100 times faster than the background rate, and the amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.
  • The second paper by Steffen et al, published in the journal Science, quantifies risks to nine global systems that regulate the stability of the Earth and provide ecosystem services that societies depend upon, such as maintaining fresh water supplies, soil fertility and climatic stability.

Conclusion

  • For the last 11,700 years until roughly 100 years ago, Earth had been in a remarkably stable state.
  • During this time, known as the Holocene epoch, everything important to civilization has occurred.
  • From the development of agriculture, to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, to the Industrial Revolution, the Holocene has been a good time for human endeavors.
  • But over the last century, some of the parameters that made the Holocene so hospitable have changed.
  • We’ve changed nitrogen and phosphorus cycles vastly more than any other element. The increase is on the order of 200 to 300 percent. In contrast, carbon has only been increased 10 to 20 percent and look at all the uproar that has caused in the climate
  • There are places that are really, really overloaded with nutrient pollution. Wisconsin and the entire Great Lakes region are some of those.
  • But there are other places where billions of people live that are undersupplied with nitrogen and phosphorus.
  • For instance, much of Africa is largely lacking these two essential elements. We’ve got certain parts of the world that are overpolluted with nitrogen and phosphorus, and others where people don’t even have enough to grow the food they need.
  • It might be possible for human civilization to live outside Holocene conditions, but it’s never been tried before. We know civilization can make it in Holocene conditions, so it seems wise to try to maintain them.
  • According to Dr Zalasiewicz’s team, the end of Holocene and the start of the Anthropocene could be considered to be drawn at the moment of detonation of the world’s first nuclear test: on July 16th 1945.
  • The beginning of the nuclear age, it marks the historic turning point when humans first accessed an enormous new energy source – and is also a time level that can be effectively tracked within geological strata, using a variety of geological clues.
  • Like any geological boundary, it is not a perfect marker – levels of global radiation really rose in the early 1950s, as salvoes of bomb tests took place