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Humanity's Role in Creating a "Post-Holocene" Chapter of Earth History

In Andrew Revkin's 1992 book on global warming, written for the American Museum of Natural History, he essentially predicted scientists would identify a "post-Holocene" period of Earth history and possibly name it for "its causative element." He mused on whether this era might be called, "say, the Anthrocene." The full text of the book is here: Views of Global Warming in 1992 and Now http://nyti.ms/TZH98r via @dotearth

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In changtng the composition of the atmo-
sphere, humans may produce a very rapid
climate shift. The result may be a new
mass extinction, such as the one that
ended the era of the dinosaurs. All that
remains from their reign are fossilized
bones and footprints. such as these at
Glen Rose, Texas.
A SCENE OF CHANGES
Bracing for Change
Human beings and the rest of the inhabitants of planet Earth may now have to
brace for a new, and much more drastiC, period of change. Perhaps 2 billion
years ago, the fate of the planet was forever altered by liv1ng th1ngs. as photo-
syntheSIS flooded the atmosphere w1th oxygen. Now, a hfe form IS 1nfluenc1ng
Earth's fate once agam, as the expros1ve expans1on of human populatJons and
1ndustry dumps tens of b1ll1ons of tons of carbon diox1de and other heat-
trapping gases into the a1r.
Humans, at least, have proved able to adapt themselves to cont1nual
shifts in climate-when they have been gradual. The new era of global
warming we may face, however. is predicted to occur much more rapidly
than any change 1n the last I0.000 years.
Perhaps earth soent1sts of the future w1ll name th1s new post-Holocene
penod for 1ts causat1ve element-for us. We are entenng an age that m1ght
someday be referred to as, say. the Anthracene. After all. 't 1s a geolog1cal age
of our own mak1ng. The challenge now IS to find away to act that w1ll make
geolog1sts of the future look upon th1s age as a remarkable t1me, a t1me 1n
wh1ch a species began to take 1nto account the long-term 1mpact of 1ts act1ons.
The alternative may be to leave a legacy of irresponsibility and neglect of the
b1osphere that could eventually man1fest 1tself in the fossil record as JUSt one
more mass extinction-like the record of bones and footpnnts left beh1nd
by the d1nosaLJrs.
55
GLOBAL WARMING

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Humanity's Role in Creating a "Post-Holocene" Chapter of Earth History

  • 1. In changtng the composition of the atmo- sphere, humans may produce a very rapid climate shift. The result may be a new mass extinction, such as the one that ended the era of the dinosaurs. All that remains from their reign are fossilized bones and footprints. such as these at Glen Rose, Texas. A SCENE OF CHANGES Bracing for Change Human beings and the rest of the inhabitants of planet Earth may now have to brace for a new, and much more drastiC, period of change. Perhaps 2 billion years ago, the fate of the planet was forever altered by liv1ng th1ngs. as photo- syntheSIS flooded the atmosphere w1th oxygen. Now, a hfe form IS 1nfluenc1ng Earth's fate once agam, as the expros1ve expans1on of human populatJons and 1ndustry dumps tens of b1ll1ons of tons of carbon diox1de and other heat- trapping gases into the a1r. Humans, at least, have proved able to adapt themselves to cont1nual shifts in climate-when they have been gradual. The new era of global warming we may face, however. is predicted to occur much more rapidly than any change 1n the last I0.000 years. Perhaps earth soent1sts of the future w1ll name th1s new post-Holocene penod for 1ts causat1ve element-for us. We are entenng an age that m1ght someday be referred to as, say. the Anthracene. After all. 't 1s a geolog1cal age of our own mak1ng. The challenge now IS to find away to act that w1ll make geolog1sts of the future look upon th1s age as a remarkable t1me, a t1me 1n wh1ch a species began to take 1nto account the long-term 1mpact of 1ts act1ons. The alternative may be to leave a legacy of irresponsibility and neglect of the b1osphere that could eventually man1fest 1tself in the fossil record as JUSt one more mass extinction-like the record of bones and footpnnts left beh1nd by the d1nosaLJrs. 55