It is the end of an epoch: the Anthropocene is upon us. An international team of 24 scientists say that it's official. The human race has impacted the earth in such a way that evidence of our lives will be around in the geological record for millions of years to come.
Our impact has made such profound changes to the environmental systems that a new classification is now deemed appropriate by this group. They say that the earth began its journey into Anthropocene somewhere around 1954-1964.
The era we are leaving behind, the Holocene, began almost 12,000 years ago at the end of a major cooling period, and while our most recent era was marked by warming temperatures and rising seas, a paper published in the January issue of Science says we have reached a whole new level and can kiss Holocene goodbye. The authors of the paper cite changes found in glaciers, tree rings, and sediments as evidence that we are now in the new era.
Changes not only caused the tons of plastics we toss out, but the chemicals as well. The testing of atomic bombs, carbon emissions, and soil additives have left an indelible mark on the earth's crust. The changes go well past the hole in the ozone layer and ocean trash islands to fundamental chemical changes that have altered the sediment and atmosphere of our precious blue marble.
This change in designation also marks another interesting occurrence: not only is it the first time the current human species has witnessed such a change, but it is our own fault.
The Holocene is not officially over, as no new designation has been made. The research and subsequent findings need to be reviewed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. They will be the ones to determine whether or not we have officially closed the door on Holocene forever.