Scholars discuss the formalisation and implications of the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene Working Group holds meeting at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

Humans have had a large impact on Earth. Industrialisation, agriculture, urbanisation and global warming have led to measurable changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, oceans, soils and sediment layers.

In the year 2000, Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, an emeritus director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, suggested a new term for this epoch that has been profoundly altered by human activities - The Anthropocene.

Professor Jan Zalasiewicz from our School of Geography, Geology and the Environment has established a team to investigate the veracity of the term - the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG).

The Group has currently 35 members. Among them are classical stratigraphers, geologists who investigate the classification of geological strata, as well as Earth System scientists, ecologists, archaeologists, oceanographers, historians, a soil scientist and an international lawyer. Earlier group meetings have been held in Berlin (2014), Cambridge (2015), Oslo (2016) and Mainz (2017).

The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC) in Mainz will host the next gathering. Between 5 and 8 September, the AWG members and further invited participants will discuss the scholarly basis and societal implications of the Anthropocene.

The group members will discuss details of the process for proposing a formal definition for the Anthropocene as a geological time unit.

The scientists also are hoping to develop research on specific sites in a broad range of environments such as lake and sea-bed sediment, in ice cores from the poles, in peat, trees and caves.

"We hope the meeting in Mainz will help develop new ideas as to how to open up discussion of the Anthropocene outside of the natural sciences," added Professor Zalasiewicz.