Sep 1, 2016

Ep. #31 – Jan Zalasiewicz

Big news this week, friends, it turns out we’re living in the Anthropocene after all. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the International Union of Geological Sciences released its report at the International Geological Congress in Cape Town that we have left the Holocene behind. Cymene and Dominic find themselves more melancholy than they expected to be about this. But fortunately we’re able to talk it over (12:50) with Jan Zalasiewicz, Professor of Paleobiology at the University of Leicester, author of the marvelous The Planet in a Pebble (Oxford, 2010), and the Chair of the AWG. Jan walks us through the Working Group’s process of investigation, the forms of evidence that mattered to them and the ensuing debate over whether to make the Anthropocene a new geological time unit. We discuss the early history of climate science, the origin of the Anthropocene concept, what skeptics of the concept are thinking, and the study of deep time as a labor of love that may be able to help us all with the transition to a new sense of time. Is the Anthropocene an age or an epoch, when exactly did it begin, what are its key markers? What is the “golden spike” we are now hearing about? Even if we can’t make anyone feel better about the Anthropocene, we can at least answer some of your questions about it ☺