By Carly Hall, UWO Senior Peer Wellness Educator

The Holocene is the epoch that many people believe we are currently in and it is the epoch that we have been living in for thousands of years. The Holocene began around 12,000 years ago and has remained the same epoch because there have not been any major climate changes. However, a new epoch called the Anthropocene has been proposed, mainly because there indeed have been significant climate changes that have primarily been due to human activity. In other words, the actions that our species alone has done is significant enough to impact our entire planet, bringing us into a new time.

According to Damian Carrington’s article in The Guardian, he mentions that some of the reasons why a new epoch should be named include sea levels rising, carbon dioxide emissions, and the global mass extinction of species. The generally agreed upon date that the Anthropocene would have started is in the 1950s, as these major changes became very apparent around that time. This is not to say that human activity did not impact our planet prior to then, but by the 1950s irrefutable evidence has been shown regarding what humans have done to our world. We have created some irreversible and horrible changes to our environment. By being aware of this, we also have the ability to make changes that will prevent future harm to our planet. Even though the Anthropocene has not been officially named as our new epoch, we should still consider the reasons why researchers believe such a drastic change is needed.

Plastic pollution has become a huge problem worldwide. Take a second to think about all of the things you used today that were composed of plastic. Off the top of my head, I can think of my plastic pens and pencils, my plastic toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, water bottle, shampoo container, and even the cup holders in my car. The list goes on and on. Now think of all of the plastics you used today that will never be recycled. Multiply this by the billions of people living on our planet, and the amount of plastic used becomes unimaginable. This insane amount of plastic is another defining feature of the Anthropocene. Please be cautious of your plastic use and recycle everything you can.

Now, many of you who are reading this were probably born well after the 1950s and may wonder how all of this applies to you. Even though you may not have personally contributed to these changes over 50 years ago, our species as a whole is to blame and I am confident that none of us have lived completely pollution or waste free lives as it is basically impossible to do. Even though we are not able to bring back the many species that have gone extinct, we can be protective of the species that are still here, especially those with limited populations. Please take some time to be aware of the impact that you have on the world around you. Let’s be optimistic for the future and hope that we will have an epoch following the Anthropocene that shows improvement of our world’s natural resources and environment.

Source: The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influence age written by Damian Carrington and found in The Guardian. 2016.