Defining the Anthropocene

Written Assignment: Define the Anthropocene

You must use in-text citations with a list of references at the end of the paper—the particular format you choose is not important, so long as it is consistent. You must complete this assignment by yourself and abide by the University of Miami Honor Code. A digital copy of the assignment is due on 4/9 to be uploaded to the drop folder in the Blackboard Assignments tab. Late assignments will receive 10 points off. Emailed assignments will receive half credit.

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Geologists divide Earth’s history into various eons, eras, periods, and so forth. For example, you’ve probably heard of the Jurassic.

As we’ve discussed in class , the geologists who formally name these geological time periods are currently debating whether or not to assign a new geological time period called the Anthropocene—a current “Age of Humans”—and what marker in the rock and fossil record to use as the geological signal for the Anthropocene.

Your assignment is to write a 1000 word paper answering the following questions.

Do you think the Anthropocene should be defined?

That is, do you think the Anthropocene is justifiable? Do you think that humans have had a large enough effect on the planet that we deserve a new geological epoch? How does humankind’s impact on the planet compare to global changes associated with previous geological time periods? Another way to think about this question is, In the future, will geologists be able to see a distinct change in the rock and fossil record associated with the appearance and spread of humans? Why or why not?

What historic or prehistoric event do you think marks the beginning of humankind’s impact on the planet?

Regardless of whether you think that the Anthropocene is justifiable, what do you think is the biggest impact that humans have had on the planet? When did this impact begin, or begin to be significant? Give the best date that you can. Since “biggest impact” can be defined in many different ways (Longest lasting? Irreversible?), you must justify your answer

What geological marker do you think scientists should use to mark the Anthropocene?

Again, regardless of whether you think that the Anthropocene is justifiable, what do you think will be the best geological marker of humankind? And what is the date associated with that marker? That is, what observation or measurement in the rock record will tell a future geologist if they have an Anthropocene rock, and what will be the time that that rock formed? Take into consideration the possible properties of a good geological marker. Does one marker have all of these properties, or do you may have to make trade-offs? Defend your choice of marker: why is it better than other markers? A highly visible marker may not correlate directly with the start of humans’ largest effects on the planet—you might consider whether this is relevant, or how close in time the marker should be to your start of the Anthropocene, or how globally synchronous the marker needs to be. For more information on Defining the Anthropocene see this:

Defining the Anthropocene

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