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 and the planet has been through all kinds of changes during that time, from white-hot oceans of magma to a frozen coating of glaciers to diverse ecosystems filled with life.
 
Geologists can read the planet's history by looking at distinct signatures in its rock layers. The scientists mark each chapter with a meaningful title: 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 precisely 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 dominant 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 and is 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 and often is known as 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, around 11,700 years before A.D. 2000 and 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 (26)
  • carlym-4-bar
    6/06/2016 - 01:20 p.m.

    Geologists pick the names for the Earth's history because the name is related to what dominated during that time period. "The Jurassic era makes up the middle period of the Mesozoic Era and often is known as the Age of Reptiles."
    I enjoyed this article because I learned how geologists choose the name for each era in Earth's history.

  • alexanderc-6-bar
    6/06/2016 - 09:36 p.m.

    Geologists have many names for Earth's history. The article states,"The scientists mark each chapter with a meaningful title: Cambrian, Jurassic, Holocene, Pleistocene, just to name a few." The names help scientists identify what periods of time important things happen. The times also have meanings that show the meaning of the time period. The scientists let others understand the times instead of identifying them by numbers or something else without meaning. I found this article interesting because I don't pay much attention to time periods.

  • calis-3-bar
    6/09/2016 - 01:25 p.m.

    Geologists pick names for Earth's history, picking things such as "Cambrian, Jurassic, Holocene, Pleistocene, just to name a few." by looking at what happened during that time period, that was meaningful, and creating a name out of it. I liked this article. The history of Earth is interesting and I liked to read about how a new era might be names in the near future. It also used good words and was an enjoyable read.

  • libbys-4-bar
    6/09/2016 - 02:02 p.m.

    Geologists pick the name for earths history by looking back and finding what happened during the different eras. i thought this topic was cool of the sort.

  • jackw-4-bar
    6/10/2016 - 11:02 a.m.

    Geologists pick the names for Earth's history based on what rules at that time. They are also named after major events discoveries. This article interested me because I never knew why they named these time periods the way they did.

  • crowan-dav
    9/08/2016 - 09:00 p.m.

    In response to "What is Anthropocene and why does it matter?" I agree that Anthropocene is very important to take care of. Anthropocene "Is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment," According to the text. One reason I agree is that if we don't control the amount of carbon monoxide our climate change will get out of hands. Another reason is that if global warming does get out of hands, it would make some frozen places, like Alaska or Russia, become an ocean and create floods. Even though people don't usually think about the planet in the future, I think it's important to do something about our environment and climate before it gets out of control.

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