Scientists Propose “Anthropocene” as a New Geologic Epoch, Marked by a Golden Spike in Crawford Lake
A team of scientists has concluded that humanity has left an indelible mark on Earth’s geology, atmosphere, and biology, leading to the recognition of a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene. This proposed epoch, characterized by significant human influence on the planet, is now set to be marked by a symbolic “golden spike” placed in Crawford Lake, a pristine body of water near Toronto, Canada. The precise start date of the Anthropocene, likely between 1950 and 1954, will be determined using measurements of plutonium levels in the lake’s sediments.
Colin Waters, a geologist from the University of Leicester who chaired the Anthropocene Working Group, emphasized the immense scale of human impact on Earth, stating that it has shifted from mere influence to full control over the planet. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, which have altered Earth’s climate and atmosphere, along with the global detection of nuclear bomb detonations in soil, the proliferation of plastics, the use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers, and the drastic changes in Earth’s biodiversity all contribute to defining this new epoch.
The concept of the Anthropocene was originally proposed over two decades ago by the late Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen. After years of scientific debate, a special committee was established to determine the necessity, timing, and location for a golden spike to commemorate the start of the Anthropocene. Golden spikes have historically symbolized the beginning of new geologic time periods.
Francine McCarthy, a committee member and Earth sciences professor at Brock University in Canada, highlighted the significance of Crawford Lake for this purpose. The lake’s depth of 79 feet (24 meters) and relatively small area of 25,800 square feet allow for pristine layers of sediment, providing an annual record of the air and Earth’s composition throughout the years.
The recognition of the Anthropocene as a distinct epoch underscores the overwhelming impact of human activities on the Earth system. It serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address the environmental challenges we face and take responsible actions to mitigate further harm to the planet.