Originally published March 17, 2016 by Heather Thompson at Apocalypse Pantry
For most of us the Apocalypse is set in our mind to commence at a future date, one conveniently scheduled for a time just past the threshold of our personal experience on Earth. We at Apocalypse Pantry are of the belief that the Apocalypse is happening now and that the attempt to date and name the Anthropocene is a confirmation of those beliefs, albeit a deeply disturbing one.
The hypothesis advanced by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and ecologist Eugene Stoermer in 2000 proposed that the Anthropocene eclipsed the Holocene at the onset of the Industrial Revolution; that the man-made changes to the Earth’s geophysical and biophysical systems from that point forward did not share the same geological epoch as anything that came before it. Recently Lewis and Maslin proposed an even more specific start date for the onset of the Anthropocene: 1610. In that year, after 50 million indigenous North and South Americans died from European colonization, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit its lowest point. The carbon levels reflected this erasure of human activity from the planet by plummeting along with the population. European colonialism irreversibly altered the course of the planet’s future, in its transfer of plants, animals, diseases and technologies. The ethnically and ecologically transformed landscapes of the Americas were horrific initiations—to which the Industrial Revolution and the “Great Acceleration” are mere logical conclusions.
The official naming of human impact on the geological record sits like that deep sick feeling you got as a kid when you did something bad. Not the kind of bad that got you a smack you could brag to your friends about later but the kind of bad that disappointed the people who loved you.