As I sit here these final minutes of New Years Eve 2012 (soon to be 2013), I ponder the age that we live in. Literally the epoch that we call our own. An epoch is measured in the geologic time that passes between major changes in the earth's "material," usually scientifically measured in clearly-defined rock layers.
Technically we live in the Holocene epoch (meaning "Entirely Recent"), which started with the thawing of the last major ice age around 9700 BC. But this identification needs re-evaluation. I believe some experts are on the right path when they argue that the world has entered into a new epoch; that man has altered the earth in such a significant way that virtually no corner of it has been left unmarked in some way or another. We have entered into a new epoch, an epoch of man, or "Anthropocene."
In fact, the International Union of Geological Sciences has called for members of the scientific community to make a decision on this matter by the year 2016. It is hard to argue whether or not man has left a permanent mark on the fabric of the earth, but how to define it in a way that relates to past epochs? Was it way back during the dawn of the agricultural age that began to transform the landscape a couple of thousand years ago? Or the atomic age in the 1950's that left radiation in soils worldwide? I believe the Industrial Revolution and the advent of production machines and chemical manufacturing processes beginning circa 1760 is an appropriate starting point of this new epoch. This is the point when everything--from the air we breathe, the earth that provides our food, and the water we drink and irrigate with--began to be significantly altered due to man's presence.
It's not a "doom and gloom" thing, but rather an opportunity for a good wake up call. I think it could be a positive thing for people to be made aware that we have made an undeniable impact on the environment and the fabric of the entire planet, enough to push us into a whole new global epoch.
So in the meantime, looking forward to the new year 2013, I suppose we could consider ourselves welcoming in the 253rd year of the Anthropocene epoch, the true Epoch of Man.
And let it be a good one!