What is the Anthropocene?


The Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems. The word Anthropocene is derived from the Greek words anthropo, for “man,” and cene for “new,” made popular by biologist Eugene Stormer and chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000.

An early concept for the Anthropocene was the Noosphere by Vladimir Vernadsky, who in 1938 wrote of "scientific thought as a geological force". Scientists in the Soviet Union appear to have used the term "anthropocene" as early as the 1960’s to refer to the Quaternary, the most recent geological period. Ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer subsequently used "anthropocene" with a different sense in the 1980’s. The term was popularized in 2000 by the chemist Paul J. Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on Earth's atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch.

As of August 202, neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) nor the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) has officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geologic time, although the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the Sub commission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the ICS voted in April 2016 to proceed towards a formal golden spike (GSSP) proposal to define the Anthropocene epoch in the geologic time scale (GTS). The sub commission presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in August 2016. In May 2019, the AWG voted in favor of submitting a formal proposal to the ICS by 2021, locating potential stratigraphic markers to the mid-20th century of the common era. This time period coincides with the start of the Great Acceleration, a post-WWII time period during which socioeconomic and Earth system trends increase at a dramatic rate, and the Atomic Age.

While geologists debate the term, its official recognition and its temporal genesis, it is clear that human impact on ecosystem and climate is at a significant scale. We believe that studying the origins of the Anthropocene and all the decisions our ancestors made in the past (both the good and the bad) are crucial for our ability to make informed decisions about the future. The Anthropocene Trust, therefore, is dedicated to funding research, training and publications of evidence-based science related to humans, our environment and our physical space – past and present.