Although officially we are in a Holocene epoch, the Anthropocene might have begun.
The Anthropocene Epoch
On a geologic time scale, in descending time-length order, an eon is longest, then we have eras and periods. Most brief, epochs and ages come next. To determine where we are on our geologic time scale our focus is rock strata. The fossil characteristics that differentiate rock strata can determine our geologic time scale location.
As an epoch reflecting the impact of humans on ecosystems and climate, the Anthropocene might have begun. Its start date could have been as far back as the Industrial Revolution or as recent as 1950. But still, the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) has not officially decided it is a new era nor selected a name. Instead, having begun 11,700 years ago, the Holocene continues.
I’ve added the arrow to the Axios graphic:
There is though an Anthropocene Working Group that concluded in 2016 a new epoch called the Anthropocene recently began. Calling 1950 the takeoff date, they believe that was when the impact of human activity accelerated. Others though, disagreeing with a “speck” on a million year time line, believe a recent human impact cannot compare to the birth of a mountain or the death of the dinosaurs.
Our Bottom Line: Geologic Tradeoffs
For the scientists that believe in a new epoch, the human economic role creates a unique tradeoff. It takes us back to the end of the 18th century and the Industrial Revolution when human economic activity accelerated. As a result, millions of individuals moved from inadequate food and shelter to a more substantial standard of living. Although probably not the beginning of the Anthropocene, it was an increasingly affluent economic environment with heightened carbon emissions from coal-powered machines. So yes, while those machines multiplied output and brought comfort, they also jumpstarted the forces that generated climate change and polluted air.
Below, you can see the vastly diminished proportion of people living in extreme poverty:
By establishing a new epoch characterized by the human impact on the earth, we are formally recognizing the tradeoff between economic growth and enviromental degradation.
My sources and more: My daily Axios podcast and this linked article alerted me to the possible existence of the Anthropocene. From there, National Geographic confirmed the possibility of a new epoch. However, shown by The Atlantic, not everyone agrees that just 75 years or even several hundred can signal an epoch.