What is the Anthropocene and why does it matter? Discover why scientists think we are in a new geologic age and what it means for our future. (Smithsonian Digital Studio)
What is the Anthropocene and why does it matter?
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Earth has been around for about 4.6 billion years. The planet has been through all kinds of changes during that time. Those changes include white-hot oceans of magma to a frozen coating of glaciers to diverse ecosystems filled with life.

Geologists can read the planet's history. They look at distinct signatures in Earth's rock layers. The scientists mark each chapter with a meaningful title. These include Cambrian, Jurassic, Holocene, Pleistocene, just to name a few.

Today, scientists argue that we have started a new chapter in the story of Earth. It is the Anthropocene. And for the first time in the planet's history, one species is its primary author.
 
The animation below explains what scientists mean when they talk about the Anthropocene. And, why our actions in this "age of humans" matter for everyone's future.
 
You may not know exactly what the eras of the Earth are. Just what is the Anthropocene? It is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the main influence on climate and the environment.
 
As for the other eras, the Cambrian was the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era. It occurred 541 to 485.4 million years ago. It's noted for its profound change in life on Earth with the introduction of more diverse life forms. 

The Jurassic period occurred 201.3 to 145.5 million years ago. The Jurassic era makes up the middle period of the Mesozoic Era. It often called the Age of Reptiles.
 
The Pleistocene era lasted about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago. The end of this era corresponds to the end of the last glacial period.
 
The Holocene era began after the Pleistocene era. That was around 11,700 years before A.D. 2000. It continues to the present. It is part of the Quaternary period. It includes the growth and impact of humans across the globe.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How do geologists pick the names for the Earth’s history?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (2)
  • kevinb-1-bar
    6/02/2016 - 09:50 p.m.

    Geologists pick names for Earths history from different things that happen during that time period. For example, the dinasours age was called the prehistoric age, and ours is called the anthropocene era. Each era has a different name created by the scientists. They pick the names from what important events happened in that era and they make it one long name probably including theirs. It says in the text, "Today, scientists argue that we have started a new chapter in the story of Earth. It is the Anthropocene. And for the first time in the planet's history, one species is its primary author." This quote basically said that the scientists added our very own chapter in our Earth's life run by humans. What I thought about this article was that I liked it because it was really cool, also the video and article are both really cool!

  • waiyan1-eri
    8/25/2016 - 06:34 a.m.

    Geologists will study earth's rocky layers and they'll give the correct title for the period.

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