Will naming the Anthropocene lead to acceptance of our planet-level impact?

By Lehigh University | EurekaAlert

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This phrase–from William Shakespeare’s tragic play Romeo & Juliet–is among the most famous acknowledgements in Western culture of the power of naming to shape human perception.

According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization that defines Earth’s time scale, the current time belongs to an epoch named the Holocene–which began 11,500 years ago after the last ice age. However, in recent years, many scientists have advocated to name a new epoch to more accurately reflect the idea that humans have become the dominant planet-shaping force. The name they have proposed places humankind’s actions–and their consequences–squarely at the center: the Anthropocene–anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “geological epoch.”

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