The Anthropocene

  • Andrew Y. Glikson
  • Colin Groves
Part of the Modern Approaches in Solid Earth Sciences book series (MASE, volume 10)


Nature includes species whose activities are capable of devastating habitats, examples include toxic viruses, methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S)-emitting bacteria, fire ant armies, locust swarms and rabbit populations. Parasitic host-destroying organisms include species of fungi, worms, arthropods, annelids and vertebrates, cf. oxpeckers and vampire bats. The mastery of fire has enabled the genus Homo to magnify its potential to harness and release energy by orders of magnitude, increasing entropy in nature on a scale unprecedented in the Cenozoic (since 65 Ma). Within a few thousand years since the onset of civilization in the great river valleys – the Nile, Euphrates, Indus, Ganges, Mekong and Yellow Rivers – the terrestrial biosphere has been transformed at an accelerated rate, tracking toward Pliocene-like conditions where temperatures exceed 2 ° Celsius above Pleistocene interglacial conditions. A return to greenhouse atmosphere conditions would render large parts of the continents subject to extreme weather events, unsuitable for agriculture and thereby for civilization. Rapid acidification of the oceans induced by high atmospheric CO2 levels would seriously damage the base of the food chain and all marine life. From the mid-twentieth century, the splitting of the atom allowed individuals to trigger a chain reaction, potentially devastating much of the biosphere. Once a species has developed sources of energy of this magnitude the species would need to be perfectly wise and responsible if it is to prevent its inventions from getting out of control.


Ocean Acidification Mass Extinction Extreme Weather Event Marine Food Chain Asteroid Impact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Y. Glikson
    • 1
  • Colin Groves
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Archaeology and AnthropologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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