Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Anthropocene and the Fossil Fuel Epoch

"Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”  
 -ts eliot-
Scientists can trace the formation of the universe, galaxies and solar systems. They track the origin of life on earth and its evolution into homo sapiens. This process happened over billions of years with one basic principal. The total amount of material and energy in the process remains the same. Earth functions as an evolving subset of this material operating primarily as a closed system. There is the occasional significant meteor that adds some material to the mix or significantly alters the planets physical processes but these events are rare. For the most part what happens on earth is a function of what is on earth. Over geologic time the matter and energy on the planet have combined in a way that has formed life. These geologic processes over large time scales continually shape and reshape the biological and physical environment. The evidence of this is present in the layered patterns of sediment and rocks and the fossils of organisms. Throughout all those layers the layer currently being created by the activities of humans is unique because of the rate at which the physical processes of the planet are changing. This geologic period is becoming known as the Anthropocene.

The following discussion captures the planetary processes and our current relationship with those processes very well.

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