Introducing the Terrifying Mathematics of the Anthropocene

By Owen Gaffney, Will Steffen, The Conversation

Here are some surprising facts about humans’ effect on planet Earth. We have made enough concrete to create an exact replica of Earth 2mm thick. We have produced enough plastic to wrap Earth in clingfilm. We are creating “technofossils”, a new term for congealed human-made materials – plastics and concretes – that will be around for tens of millions of years. But it is the scale that humans have altered Earth’s life support system that is the most concerning. In 2000, Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer proposed that human impact on the atmosphere, the oceans, the land and ice sheets had reached such a scale that it had pushed Earth into a new epoch. They called it the Anthropocene and argued the current Holocene epoch was over. The Holocene began 11,700 years ago as we emerged from a deep ice age. Over the past 10,000 years, the defining...