THE ANTHROPOCENE – THIS IS NOT A POST ON PHOTOGRAPHY!!!

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I’m a geologist, have been for 55 years or more, first as a boyhood amateur and later professionally.  And although I’ve not pursued the subject actively for 30 years, its always been with me, colouring my thoughts and opinions – and influencing the way in which I look at landscape.

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Colouring my opinions?  Well, the Earth is around 4,500 million years old – that’s 4,500,000,000 years, which is certainly a big number.  And especially so when compared to the less than 7 million years that our ancestors have been around.  And even more so when compared to the 65 years that I’ve been around – so that, to my geological eyes, our lives are but the blink of an eyelid in “the grand scheme of things”.

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But geologically young and briefly living as we may be, our presence is having a profound effect on this planet, and this has led to the coining of a new name for the part of Earth’s history that you and I are living in, that is going on right now – the Anthropocene.

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Earth’s history is divided up into a number of periods, of which the one that you’ll certainly have heard is the Jurassic, as in the famous Park.  That was around 200-145 million years back.  Our imaginations have also been stirred by the Pleistocene, with its vast numbers of large mammals – sabre-toothed cats, mammoths, woolly rhinoceros – and Neanderthal Man, whose DNA we still carry – an epoch lasting for most of the past two million years.

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But the Anthropocene is something rather different – it is the period in Earth’s history when the activities of us humans have had significant effects on our planet’s ecosystems – effects that can be detected in the geological record – in the rocks.  The term was first used at the turn of the Millenium (this is not breaking news!) –  but what truly fascinates me about it are the various opinions as to when we began to significantly affect our planet – to a geologically detectable extent.  Here are some of the suggestions:

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  • the appearance of extensive farming, 8,000 years ago

  • the start of rice production, 6,500 years ago

  • the colonisation of North America by Old World settlers, starting in 1610

  • the Industrial Revolution, starting in 1760

  • the advent of the atomic bomb

  • the start of the great period of economic growth and technological development after World War Two.

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Which of these events, I wonder, started us irrevocably on the road that we are on now?  Or was it none of the above, but rather, as portrayed in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was it when we first started using our intelligence to make tools that included, of course, those darker implements, weapons? 

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I have a dreadfully fascinating book, A History of the World in 100 Weapons (ISBN 978 1 84908 520 5) – a history of the 100 weapons which have most changed world history.  And the first weapon to be considered is the Stone Age flint axe, to which the introduction reads: “The specific origin of humankind’s first weapons are lost in time.  At some point in prehistory, human beings picked up sticks or rocks with violent intent, and smashed them into other people, awakening a world of dark possibilities.  Thus, unfortunately, were the beginnings of the technological evolution that would eventually lead to Stealth fighters and GPS-guided bombs.”.

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Before I go, I must apologise to you all for dumping this geology and history piece into the middle of a photography blog – but I’ve nowhere else to put it!  And maybe its of interest.  It has certainly made me think about current events – “Our Now” – in a rather different way.  And if you’d like a little more info on the Anthropocene  – you can find it here, and also here .

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

10 Responses to THE ANTHROPOCENE – THIS IS NOT A POST ON PHOTOGRAPHY!!!

  1. I agree with Sallyann. ‘Nough said. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dave says:

    It is indeed an interesting piece and I’m glad you posted it. I am already planning lessons for next year’s geology classes built around your post. A great jumping off place for the students to learn about geologic history, and as a talking point for them to research the many opinions about the beginning of the Anthropocene. Thanks, Adrian.

    Like

  3. Sallyann says:

    In the blink of an eye Father Time will have forgotten us, but Mother Nature will remember and I would like to hope it will be with a smile and not a frown. 🙂
    FATman… SLIMman ? … what about FITman? 😀

    Like

  4. krikitarts says:

    It’s a Very Good Thing to remind us all of where we’ve come from, how we’ve arrived at where we are, and where we may be going. We all need to add these thoughts to our frequent serious contemplations. But sometimes we need to lie down in an awakening spring meadow and bask in the renewal of life. I think you could use a good portion of this, just about now. Oh, and…good selfie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Gary, thanks for your good words, my friend! Well, your medicine (but I thought you only treat animals?) should be coming right on cue – and even if we have a wet spring / summer, at least it’ll be warmer and a bit brighter.

      And you’re right about basking in the renewal of Life – I intend doing just that in the near future!

      And the selfie – your comment when I originally posted this was that I appear to be nude and, ever truthful, I replied that, well, I felt hot – always the simply answers here on FATman Photos.

      Oh yes, and I’ve been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, but whether I can metamorphose this blog into SLIMman Photos is something else again! Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

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