Anthropocene: Are we heading for the sixth extinction!

Since times immemorial, rather say since the day the hunter gatherer man became a cultivator, he began looking towards the skies for the rain or the sunshine. Till then, man was like a predator, killing animals for food. But once he became a cultivator, he began to play with the earth. Many a times he changed the landscape by hacking a forest to create a large farm. The more he began depending on the earth, more he started meddling with the nature and he started getting more rebuttals from the nature.

Researchers on the past climates studied them as they existed five million years ago to the contemporary period. They even created computer simulated models to predict the future climates. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel awardee of 1995, who unraveled the mechanisms that upset our ozone layers, has coined the term Anthropocene era for the present geological era of the Earth.

The reason for this nomenclature is simple-as evident from the name Anthros means human. This is an era of the earth dominated by us, the humans. But humans have been dominating the earth since quite some time. Hence there is a debate about the starting date of the Anthropocene Era. Some say it should coincide with industrialization. But there are evidences of human interference on the eco-system, much before that. The conversion of man from hunter-gatherer to an agriculturist in the Neolithic period is said to be the beginning of the Anthropocene.

It seems ecological dis-balances began some 10000 years ago. In other words it coincided with the retreat of the Ice Age. During that period many species of large mammals disappeared. Was it a climatic incident or human hand was there? The scientists do not deny the possibility of killing of those giants by the humans of the yore! It is believed that this mass killing by the humans affected the methane production. The mammoths that were predated were the largest methane producers. The dip in the methane levels in the atmosphere lead to a Global chill.

These meat eaters advanced further as agriculturists and burnt acres and acres of forests. These forests were the carbon stores or carbon sinks for the excess atmospheric carbon. Instead, our ancestors converted them in to carbon-dioxide producing fields. In a way, it was boon in disguise that the Global chill induced by their forefathers was stalled as the excess carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere generated warmth by creating green-house conditions. Bill Ruddiman of Virginia University, an ace climate scientist, on the basis of the study of the Ice Cores from Antarctica worked out the global enhancement of greenhouse gases and said that this increased the global temperatures by 0.8 degrees Celsius.

Thomas Stocker another climatologist produced contradictory evidence to prove that the initial warming by the Neolithic man was not possible. He said it was due to reactions by the carbon containing minerals in the oceans that finally released heavy amounts of carbon-dioxide to raise the levels of green-house gases.

However, this was all before the industrially and technologically evolved biped, the modern man came in to existence. Once the smoke belching industries were set up, hydrocarbon fuel guzzling automobiles came in to being the scenario drastically changed. To compound the problem human beings have multiplied like insects. More numbers means more food, more water, more roads, more vehicles…there is no end to this gargantuan list.

Thus, food and water security are at present foremost in the minds of the world leaders, than the territorial securities and expansions. The climate seems to have gone haywire. Countries like USA are facing fierce storms, vicious floods and heat or cold waves. Developing country like India is facing the crisis of floods and droughts, unprecedented winter rains and storms, humid and torrid summers. All these lead to more consumption of power, which ultimately burdens the atmosphere with more green-house gases.
Will it be lights out for the humans, like the other vanishing species of vertebrates? It seems as of today the extinction of vertebrates 114 times faster than it used to be in the past 10000 years. We have polluted our world, hacked our forests and now in front of the Nature we are soft targets like the ‘walking dead.’

Are we going to survive the war with the Nature is a million dollar question.


More by :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

Top | Environment

Views: 3381      Comments: 3

Comment i dont agree that Neolithic age men were responsible for ice age. population was very low at that time. and even burning of forest and killing animal could not contribute in ice age. there must be some other big reason.
and we must save our environment and resources. it is also taught in every religion like islam hinduism parsi etc.
but article is good.

28-Jul-2015 11:21 AM

Comment A diificult topic explained in a very lucid manner..

15-Jul-2015 11:42 AM

Comment The real possibility of an asteroid strike, one that has already been demonstrated in the past global annihilation of the dinosaurs, proves that man-made global effects, such as you mention, over vast periods of time, are but petty considerations in comparison. It also proves the providence of God that alone sustains the earth's existence in the universe of such imminent cosmic threats. Pollution effects by human activity have always been a case of necessity for survival, and could not have been otherwise. Mankind can hardly be blamed for pandering to necessity; but the appearance of blame occurs in the estimate of the better off. As human beings we should be more aware of the power and scale of divine providence, whereby everything in the universe manifests 'what is', prefigured in the laws of the universe, and in human society in the relevance of divine principles of rightness in behaviour, whereby we must strive to lead moral lives to avert peril. The degradation of the planet by human activity is a moral consequence, but to the extent that it is out of compulsive behaviour, fulfilling experienced need, man is not to be blamed but pitied for his state, and our realistic hope is in God’s deliverance on a personal and collective level.

13-Jul-2015 22:06 PM

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