Monday, January 28, 2008

This Way to the Egress...


First of all, pardon the new look and the temporary mess. We're doing a little site renovation as we kick this thing back into gear. So, say goodbye to the Holocene, and Hello again to My Sandmen.

Robert Roy Britt of Live brings us the news over the weekend that Humans Force Earth into New Geologic Epoch.

Humans have altered Earth so much that scientists say a new epoch in the planet's geologic history has begun. Say goodbye to the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch and hello to the Anthropocene. Among the major changes heralding this two-century-old man-made epoch:

The idea, first suggested in 2000 by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen, has gained steam with two new scientific papers that call for official recognition of the shift.

Keep in mind that the previous three epochs, The Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene, lasted roughly 18.2 Million years, 3.5 Million years, and 1.8 Million years, respectively. The Pleistocene Epoch marked the beginning of Quaternary Period as defined by renewed Ice Ages and tremendous global climate change. The current Holocene epoch is accepted to have begun 10,000 years ago, marked by the termination of the last periodic glaciation of that Ice age, and subsequent global climate change, most notably, general warming of the Earth and a related rise of global sea levels; upwards of 300+ feet. Clearly, with that in mind, Geologically speaking, the Holocene Epoch has hardly begun.

Time will tell, what comes next. An end in the global warming cycle and return of Ice Age activity would naturally mark the beginning of a new Epoch of this current Geologic Period. A continuation of the current 10,000 year-old warming period, however, should mean a continuation of the Holocene Epoch by which it is defined. For now, however, one thing is certain. The structure of Geologic time is roughly determined by the nature of the Earth's biological activity. But, it is the Geologic mechanisms themselves which effects and defines the biological changes that are what is important to scientists studying and understanding the history of the Earth. It is those mechanisms effecting the periodic Geology of the Earth, as slow and persistent or contrarily sudden as they may be, that have proven to be far more powerful than any inconsequential biological staining of the outer patina of the Earth's lithosphere. Like lichens on Granite, human's are little more than a mechanism of geological weathering, and an equally weak one at that.

Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman who is best remembered for his entertaining hoaxes and for founding the travelling show that eventually became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. PT Barnum's original American Museum was located in New York City from 1841 to 1865. There he displayed all manner of oddities and curious attractions; some real, and some not. As it became more popular, Barnum noticed that people were lingering too long at his exhibits, limiting the number of patrons and no doubt encouraging an unwelcomed degree of speculation of their authenticity. He started posted signs indicating "This Way to the Egress". Most visitors at the time did not know that the word "Egress" was another term for "Exit." Baffled and curious, people followed the signs to what they assumed was another fascinating exhibit, only to find themselves outside the musuem unable to return... without revisiting the ticket booth.

In this era of heated debate regarding global climate change, and the nature of Man's effect on the Earth, it seems that many scientists recognize the threat of public scrutiny lingering too long on the spurious exhibits at hand. By redefining the Earth's Geologic record from within, using those very same questionable exhibits, they hope to christen the show, secure belief, and close the door on the subject once and for all, moving the mind toward the egress into a new Epoch defined by the abomination of human existence.


Major Mike said...

Two things your point about the infancy of the Holocene epoch appropriately reminds us is that 100 years of data does not an epoch make, and that within the range of the average epoch cycle, let's say 6 million years, a trend of 5-10 years cannot be taken as any kind of scientific certainty.

Additionally, it is the earth it appears to me that ulitmately determines her fate. Much as water is continually changing state around us, the earth seems to be perfectly capable of changing state in the face of thousands of influencing factors, including the few that man actually affects. In the end man's impact on global warming, which I view as minimal, may only act as an accelerant (an extremely minor one) to the next epochal correction that the earth undergoes based on her need to adapt to survive, with or without mankind.

There have never been any assurances that man would survive into perpetuity regardless of his cleverness or his ability to adapt, and it will never be completely understood by this generation or the hundreds that follow as to whether or not our behaviors contributed to, or accelerated the coming of the next epochal cycle, but one thing is certain, although man may have been created in God's image, he certainly does not possess his power. And as conceited as we humans have become, and as much as we want to be in denial about it, ultimately we have about as little chance of stemming the onset of the next epoch as we do of routing a hurricane, regardless of how many pop bottles we recycle. MM

Mr.Atos said...

Its been a long time since being intimately involved with the subjects of Geology and Geomorphology, but it seems odd to have serious scientists actually considering a 10,000 year epoch, Why have the Holocene at all? Even considering the points made by the author of this story, nothing significant has changed in 10,000 years to warrant a new threshold. 12,000 BP years ago man showed up in America across the Bering land bridge (arguably, of course). Global warming started prior to the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation, over 9,800 years before the Industrial Revolution. Sea levels rose over300 feet afterward. MegaFauna began an unaided period of drammatic extinction. The Alpine forests reaching deep into Texas receded. The roots of human civilization took hold in China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and some might argue MesoAmerica. So, why the new threshold. If one wishes to argue for a redefining of Epochs, to acknowedge the plague of Man, just rename the Holocene to Anthropocene and leave the threshold where it is... or more appropriately for them, Anthroculpacene. To be naturally followed by the Anthrocidalcene.