Bart van Dijk via unsplash

The Anthropocene: the age of human destruction

By Marzana Tasnim

The Anthropocene is the age where humanity is Earth’s greatest geological agent – so why is it always left out of environmental discourse? 

The Earth is four and a half billion years old; but modern humans have only been here for 200,000 years. In the geological sense of time, human presence on this planet seems like a mere blink, however, in terms of impact, humans have left and continue to leave a vast footprint on Earth. The human ‘force’ has been so impossibly evident that many scholars have come up with new terminology to address the time of humans – The Anthropocene.   

Earth has been through many eras. From the Hadean Eon when the Earth formed into the initial stage of the planet we now call home, to the Holocene – the official current geological epoch, our planet has come a long way. Earth’s current official geological epoch – the Holocene – began around 12,000 years ago at the end of the last major Ice Age. The highlight – or perhaps lowlight – of this epoch has been humanity, as the Earth’s stable climate conditions allowed us to thrive. The epoch witnessed the rise of human civilizations, and saw people proudly and aggressively trying to bend the natural world to their convenience. Earth’s resources continue to be manipulated to cater towards the growth of our consumerist nature, resulting in a great loss of biodiversity and changes in the atmospheric and oceanic temperature.  As human influence grew, many believe the Holocene faded away prematurely, making way for the Anthropocene. 

When humans, who historically have been hunters and gatherers, found a way to steady their lives with agriculture, it was revolutionary and paved the way for them to be amongst the fastest breeding species on the planet. When around 300 years ago, humans discovered harnessing the power of coal, it made way for another revolution to happen – the Industrial Revolution. The two-legged, inquisitive species soon found ways to extract crude oil, coal, and natural gas. These energy-dense mixtures soon became an indispensable part of the way modern, capitalised humans live their lives

To fully utilise these newfound sources of fuel, combustion was key. As we burned the world’s resources,  carbon dioxide and other harmful gases were released into the atmosphere, causing temperature increase. Recently, the increased temperature was directly linked to the extinction of several plants and animals, the acidification of oceans, and rising levels of oceans, among other effects. 

Currently, to meet the ever-increasing demand of consumerist societies, humans continue wreaking havoc in the natural world. By blowing up mountaintops to mine for coal, combing the deep seabed for minerals, and melting  million-year-old ice sheets, humans have successfully established themselves as a nightmare species. Human doings, more specifically human greed, have had a far-reaching effect on people, animals, and the planet. As corporations fill their bellies with profit, millions of people around the world are facing the challenges posed by climate change and economic inequality.  

The Anthropocene can be a powerful tool to understand human impact on the world. It can help us critically analyse our past, present, and future. We can begin to disillusion ourselves from anthropocentric concepts of human glory through outrageous abuse of the natural world, and the cruelty humans continue to inflict on the nonhuman inhabitants of the planet. 

The Anthropocene also enables our species to finally acknowledge the great footprint we have and continue to leave on the planet, take accountability and make steps towards safeguarding the future of our planet. But despite coming into popularity in the 2000s, the concept of Anthropocene is often left out of the mainstream environmental discourse.

Perhaps the problem is that the Anthropocene is too academic and the concept is inaccessible to most mainstream publications. Or maybe the reason that the Anthropocene is hardly ever mentioned is because most people simply do not care about the detriment humans continue to have to the world, and would rather bury their heads in the sand than face the reality that we are killing the planet. We need to include the Anthropocene in mainstream environmental discourse and start facing the reality that humanity is killing the Earth. 


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