The International Union of Geological Sciences (UICG), after decades of debate, has decided not to recognize the Anthropocene, a phase characterized by traces of human presence on the planet, a special place in the geological history of planet Earth. Even if human activity has had impacts - increase in greenhouse gases, spread of microplastics and other pollutants, mass extinction of species - this does not mean that we have abandoned the Holocene, the geological period that began about 12 thousand years ago at the end of the world. of the last ice age, to enter the "human era", the organization noted. 

The UICG approved the decision "to reject the proposal for an Anthropocene epoch as a formal unit of geological timescale," confirming a vote that ended March 4. Some members of the electoral committee expressed doubts about the way in which the decision was made and the fairness of the procedure, arguments rejected by the UiCG, which considered that, although a new geological epoch is not properly constituted, the term Anthropocene will continue to be widely used. “It will remain an invaluable indicator of human impact on the Earth system,” clarified the organization, known for its intransigence towards change. 


International Union of Geological Sciences

In 2009, a working group was created to determine to what extent humanity has changed geological eras or not, since when and what are the most emblematic signs. Last July, after almost 15 years of study, members of the group chose Lake Crawford, near Toronto, Canada, as the reference site for the start of the Anthropocene. 

The layered sediments at the bottom of this lake, laden with microplastics, ash from burning oil and coal, and radioactive fallout from nuclear explosions, are the best evidence that a new chapter in Earth's history has opened, scientists later concluded. There is no disagreement that "the age of man" has caused profound global changes, acknowledged Erle Ellis, an environmental scientist critical of the Anthropocene proposal. 

But "the truth is, there's no need to set a hard limit. It's just not the most important issue," said Ellis, a professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland. For Martin Head, a professor of Earth sciences at Brock University in Canada and a proponent of recognizing the Anthropocene, there are "myriad geological signs" of this new era.

The IUCG's rejection is "a missed opportunity to recognize and endorse a simple reality, namely that our planet abandoned its natural state in the mid-20th century," Head said.