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Volume 22 Issue 7 (July 2012)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 60–61 | Full Text | PDF (103KB)

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Is the Anthropocene an issue of stratigraphy or pop culture?

Whitney J. Autin1*, John M. Holbrook2

1 Dept. of Earth Sciences, SUNY College at Brockport, Brockport, New York 14420, USA
2 School of Geology, Energy & the Environment, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas 76129, USA


The term Anthropocene recently entered into the rhetoric of both the scientific community and the popular environmental movement. Scientific proponents argue that global industrialization drives accelerated Earth-system changes unrivaled in Earth’s history. The discussion now filters into geological stratigraphy with proposals to amend formal time stratigraphic nomenclature (Zalasiewicz et al., 2008, 2010). Environmentalists suggest that terms like Anthropocene foster broad social and cultural awareness of human-induced environmental changes. Advocates argue that greater awareness of humanity’s role in environmental change encourages sustainable resource utilization.

Formal recognition of a new geologic epoch helps the broader scientific community solidify the idea of humanity as an Earth-system driver. Before the scientific community ventures too far, we wish to offer comment that considers the practicality of the Anthropocene to geological stratigraphy, the science to which it ultimately applies.

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Manuscript received 1 March 2012; accepted 9 April 2012

doi: 10.1130/G153GW.1