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Nuclear blasts, other human activity signal new epoch, group argues

Controversial proposal would add Anthropocene to geologic time scale

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6:00am, September 25, 2016
images of plastic, nuclear tests, chickens

END OF AN EPOCH  Plastics, radioactive fallout and the prevalence of domestic animals such as chickens — signs of which show up in the sedimentary record — have made the last few decades distinct in the planet’s stratigraphic record, a group of researchers say.

Humankind’s bombs, plastics, chickens and more have altered the planet enough to usher in a new chapter in Earth’s geologic history. That’s the majority opinion of a group of 35 experts tasked with evaluating whether the current human-dominated time span, unofficially dubbed the Anthropocene, deserves a formal place in Earth’s geologic timeline alongside the Eocene and the Pliocene.

In a controversial move, the Anthropocene Working Group has declared that the Anthropocene warrants being a full-blown epoch (not a lesser age), with its start pegged to the post–World War II economic boom and nuclear weapons tests of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The group made these provisional recommendations August 29 at the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

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