Dissing the Planet

The word combines the root “anthropo”, meaning “human” with the root “-cene”, the standard suffix for “epoch” in geologic time.

The Anthropocene is distinguished as a new period either after or within the Holocene, the current epoch, which began approximately 10,000 years ago (about 8000 BC) with the end of the last glacial period.

he sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is the ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch, mainly due to human activity. The large number of extinctions spans numerous families of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforest, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions is thought to be undocumented. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.

The Holocene extinction includes the disappearance of large land animals known as megafauna, starting at the end of the last Ice Age. Megafauna outside of the African continent, which did not evolve alongside humans, proved highly sensitive to the introduction of new predation, and many died out shortly after early humans began spreading and hunting across the Earth (additionally, many African species have also gone extinct in the Holocene). These extinctions, occurring near the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary, are sometimes referred to as the Quaternary extinction event.

The arrival of humans on different continents coincides with megafaunal extinction. The most popular theory is that human overhunting of species added to existing stress conditions. Although there is debate regarding how much human predation affected their decline, certain population declines have been directly correlated with human activity, such as the extinction events of New Zealand and Hawaii. Aside from humans, climate change may have been a driving factor in the megafaunal extinctions, especially at the end of the Quaternary.

The ecology of humanity has been noted as being that of an unprecedented “global superpredator” that regularly preys on the adults of other apex predators and has worldwide effects on food webs. Extinctions of species have occurred on every land mass and ocean, with many famous examples within Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, North and South America, and on smaller islands. Overall, the Holocene extinction can be characterised by the human impact on the environment. The Holocene extinction continues into the 21st century, with meat consumption, overfishing, ocean acidification and the amphibian crisis being a few broader examples of an almost universal, cosmopolitan decline in biodiversity. Human overpopulation (and continued population growth) along with profligate consumption are considered to be the primary drivers of this rapid decline.

It has been suggested that human activity has made the period following the mid-20th century different enough from the rest of the Holocene to consider it a new geological epoch, known as the Anthropocene, which was considered for implementation into the timeline of Earth’s history by the International Commission on Stratigraphy in 2016. In order to constitute the Holocene as an extinction event, scientists must determine exactly when anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions began to measurably alter natural atmospheric levels at a global scale and when these alterations caused changes to global climate. Employing chemical proxies from Antarctic ice cores, researchers have estimated the fluctuations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane gases (CH4) in the earth’s atmosphere for the late Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. Based on studies that estimated fluctuations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere using chemical proxies from Antarctic ice cores, general argumentation of when the peak of the Anthropocene occurred pertains to the timeframe within the previous two centuries; typically beginning with the Industrial Revolution, when greenhouse gas levels were recorded by contemporary methods at its highest.

An alternative branch ?

Bonobos are one of humankind’s closest living relatives, yet most people are not even aware that bonobos exist. These great apes are complex beings with profound intelligence, emotional expression, and sensitivity. The most unusual and compelling feature of bonobos is their society–matriarchal, egalitarian, and peaceful. Bonobos are also well-known for their creative and abundant sexual activity. Their gentle and amorous nature has led some people to call them the Make Love, Not War primate. The last great ape species discovered, bonobos could be the first to become extinct unless concerted action is taken now to protect them and their rainforest home.