Anthropocene now: influential panel votes to recognize Earth’s new epoch


“The Anthropocene works as a geological unit of time, process and strata,” says Jan Zalasiewicz, chair of the AWG and a geologist at the University of Leicester, UK, who wasn’t confident of that conclusion when the AWG began its work a decade ago. But the vote demonstrates that the group has mostly coalesced around the geological unit. “It is distinguishable. It is distinctive,” he says.

“The stratigraphic evidence overwhelmingly indicates a time-transgressive Anthropocene with multiple beginnings rather than a single moment of origin,” says Matt Edgeworth, an archaeologist at the University of Leicester, UK, and a member of the AWG. Naming a new epoch on the basis of the radionuclide signal alone, he says, “impedes rather than facilitates scientific understanding of human involvement in Earth system change”.

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