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A practical solution: The Anthropocene is a geological event, not a formal epoch

November 15, 2021

The Anthropocene has yet to be defined in a way that is functional both to the international geological community and to the broader fields of environmental and social sciences. Formally defining the Anthropocene as a chronostratigraphical series and geochronological epoch with a precise global start date would drastically reduce the Anthropocene’s utility across disciplines. Instead, we propose the Anthropocene be defined as a geological event, thereby facilitating a robust geological definition linked with a scholarly framework more useful to and congruent with the many disciplines engaging with human-environment interactions. Unlike formal epochal definitions, geological events can recognize the spatial and temporal heterogeneity and diverse social and environmental processes that interact to produce anthropogenic global environmental changes. Consequently, an Anthropocene Event would incorporate a far broader range of transformative human cultural practices and would be more readily applicable across academic fields than an Anthropocene Epoch, while still enabling a robust stratigraphic characterization.

Publication Year 2021
Title A practical solution: The Anthropocene is a geological event, not a formal epoch
DOI 10.18814/epiiugs/2021/021029
Authors Philip Gibbard, Andrew M Bauer, Matthew Edgeworth, William F Ruddiman, Jacquelyn L. Gill, Merritts. Dorothy J, Stanley C. Finney, Lucy E. Edwards, Michael J.C. Walker, Mark Maslin, Erle C Ellis
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Episodes
Index ID 70226191
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center; Florence Bascom Geoscience Center