The Age of Man | September-October 2013
The overwhelming extent of human intervention in the planet’s processes has led some scientists to argue that our era warrants a new geological label: the Anthropocene (anthropo- for human and –cenefor new). The term has not been officially recognized by geological societies and there are disputes about when it may have begun, with opinions ranging from 200 years ago, with the ushering in of the industrial age, to as far back as 8,000 years ago, when carbon emissions began to rise with the development of farming. But the Anthropocene is an effective cultural term to describe an end to the distinction between man and nature. That blurring of lines worries many people who argue, as Alberta conservationist Harvey Locke does in this issue, that it leads to a hubristic notion that man can manage the planet. The underlying science of the damage we are doing to the biosphere that sustains us is a fact, they say, one that can’t be fixed by soothing arguments that man can fix nature.