The beginning

The Anthropocene: A geological period or time when humans have been responsible for changing the conditions of the planet.

The question that comes to my mind when I think about The Anthropocene is how do we know when it begun? Was it the invention of electricity that caused such change? The industrial revolution? Or perhaps it is today, how large our human population is and the use of resources and power in such high volume that are responsible for the condition of our planet.

Some believe The Anthropocene to have started when the extinction of animals such as the mammoth occurred. Others believe farming and the increase of agriculture that occurred 15,000 years ago as the starting point of The Anthropocene. However, a more supported point is the rise of the Industrial Revolution in 1760. This brought major changes to agriculture, manufacturing, transport and increases in the use of coal for power. More specifically, some scientists turn to the invention of the steam engine in 1784 as the start date of The Anthropocene. This is due to the fact the steam engine powered the industrial revolution and therefore increased the demand for wood, coal and petrol to keep everything running. The need for these supplies meant the planet had been changed as of excavation and logging to produce these materials, therefore with humans altering the planet, being a contributor to the Anthropocene. I have to agree with the industrial revolution being a starting point of the Anthropocene as until this point, the need for new materials/fuel and the gasses and fumes produced by machinery had never been so high and abundant on the planet. As the industrial revolution brought advances in medicine and improved living standards, this resulted in a population boom – growing from 700 million in the mid 1700’s to one billion in the 1800’s. Again, this meant the demand for resources grew, contributing to the increased use of manufacturing and deforestation resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of natural resources. With such change to the planet resulting from the Industrial Revolution, I think it is an appropriate time in history to look at as the start of the Anthropocene. As the revolution caused such damage to the environment, it could also be argued that this is the underlying cause of many other issues present in today’s world such as climate change and the melting ice caps, also part of the Anthropocene. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that greenhouse gases were being emitted to the atmosphere so with the levels of these gases increasing over time due to population growth, industrialisation and urbanisation it is agreeable to place the Industrial Revolution as the Anthropocene, the starting point of destruction and changes to the planet, which humans are responsible for.

References

Lorber Kasunic,J., 2014, ‘Change us to suit the world’: Living in the anthropocene and why designers need to
act now, lecture, 8th August

McLamb,E. 2011, The ecological impact of the industrial revolution, Ecology Global Network, 16th August 2014, < http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/18/ecological-impact-industrial-revolution/&gt;

Rafferty,J.2013, Anthropocene Epoch, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 16th August 2014, <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1492578/Anthropocene-Epoch/301071/Evidence-in-layers-of-rock>

Stromberg, J. 2013, What is the Anthropocene and are we in it?, Smithsonian Magazine, 16th August 2014, <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/?no-ist>

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