This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission.
Farewell to the Holocene
Our world, our old world that we have inhabited for the last 12,000 years, has ended, even if no newspaper in North America or Europe has yet printed its scientific obituary.
This February, while cranes were hoisting cladding to the 141st floor of the Burj Dubai tower (which will soon be twice the height of the Empire State Building), the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London was adding the newest and highest story to the geological column.
The London Society is the world’s oldest association of Earth scientists, founded in 1807, and its Commission acts as a college of cardinals in the adjudication of the geological time-scale. Stratigraphers slice up Earth’s history as preserved in sedimentary strata into hierarchies of eons, eras, periods, and epochs marked by the “golden spikes” of mass extinctions, speciation events, and abrupt changes in atmospheric chemistry.
In geology, as in biology or history, periodization is a complex, controversial a... Read more