Anthropocene (the geological time period defined by human action)
The Anthropocene is a term that was coined recently (first published in 2000 by Crutzen and Stoermer) to describe the enormity of humanity’s ecological footprint on the planet. Research across many fields has shown that human beings are now the primary force in shaping landscapes around the world. The title of the Geological Society of America’s 2011 annual meeting was "Archean to Anthropocene: The Past is the Key to the Future." This idea is perhaps best viewed through research into the human appropriation of the net products of photosynthesis (HANPP), which is probably somewhere between 25% and 40% depending on how it is measured. Considering that the world’s human population will grow from 7 billion today to more than 9 and a half billion by mid-century and that resource consumption is growing even faster than population, it is easy to imagine HANPP perhaps doubling during the next 40 years. Although human beings have played an important role in landscape ecology for millenniums, this human-dominated time epoch has really just emerged during the past century or so, meaning that for the sliver of time that we have been active in this context, we have really been active. A good illustration of the Anthropocene is seen on this map from Texas A&M University.
(CC Image courtesy of Kevan on Flickr)