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The Humanities are invited to the Anthropocene Event but not to the Anthropocene Series/Epoch: a response to Chvostek (2023)

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

The endeavour over the last 15 years to formalize an Anthropocene Series/Epoch has generated great publicity ranging from scientific articles by members of the Anthro-pocene Working Group (AWG) and a range of other earth and social scientists (Head et al. 2022; Waters and Turner, 2022) to articles for the public in newspapers and magazines world-wide. We are concerned that most of them fail to consider, or choose to ignore, the history and nature of units defined by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) and ratified by the executive committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). Those divisions are chronostrati-graphic units. They are bodies of strata, which, depending on their extent, are denoted as systems, series and stages. Chronostratigraphic units are compiled by the worldwide correlation of stratigraphic sections varying greatly in deposi-tional and geographic setting and stratigraphic extent and completeness. The time intervals in the past during which these strata accumulated are denoted, respectively, as periods, epochs and ages with the intervals of time (e.g. Cambrian Period) based on the stratal intervals for which they are named (e.g. Cambrian System). The primary mission of the ICS is to establish a single hierarchal set of global chronostratigraphic units with precisely defined boundaries that can be correlated as widely as possible. These formally defined global strati-graphic sections and points (GSSPs) are chosen to set the limits of the stratigraphic content and characteristics of the units and thus define their boundaries. Of the 103 stages of the Phanerozoic Eonthem, currently 78 have lower boundaries defined by GSSPs; so do most series, and all but one system (the Cretaceous System). The ICS chronostratigraphic units and their boundaries are geostandards that have authority and validity because of the rigorous criteria on which GSSP proposals are evaluated (Salvador, 1994; Cowie et al., 1986; Remane et al, 1996) and the several levels of evaluation and consideration by which they are approved and ratified (Finney and Edwards, 2016). These chronostratigraphic units are the material records of Earth history and the passage of time, and therefore serve as the basis for the geochronological (numer-ical) units of the Geological Time Scale. Given the long established, rigorous stratigraphic basis on which chronostrati-graphic units and their boundaries are established, the call by Chvostek (2023) to invite the Human(ities) to the Anthro-pocene Series/Epoch must be rejected. Conversely, the Human (ities) are indeed invited to and can contribute greatly to recognition and study of the Anthropocene Event.

Description

Keywords

Anthropocene, epoch, event, series, stratigraphy

Journal Title

Journal of Quaternary Science

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0267-8179
1099-1417

Volume Title

Publisher

Wiley
Sponsorship
n/a