Imagine aliens land on the planet a million years from now and look into the geologic record. What will these curious searchers find of us? They will find what geologists, scientists, and other experts are increasingly calling the Anthropocene, or new age of mankind. The impacts that we humans make have become so pervasive, profound, and permanent that some geologists argue we merit our own epoch.
For example, people’s farming, fishing, and forestry will also show up as a before and after because it’s those kinds of activities that are causing unique species of plants and animals to die out. This die-off started perhaps more than 40,000 years ago as humanity spread out of Africa and reached places like Australia, kicking off the disappearance of big, likable, and edible animals. This is true of Europe and Asia, with the woolly mammoth, as well as North and South America, too. For a species that has only roamed the planet for a few hundred thousand years, Homo sapiens has had a big impact on the future fossil record.
That also means that even if people were to disappear tomorrow, evolution would be driven by our choices to date. Something to think about….
From the TED-Ed Lesson How long will human impacts last? – David Biello
Animation by Margaret To