Saturday, August 28, 2004


Just when I was getting comfortable in the Holocene

Many people know where they are in space. When confronted by an Alien Immigration Officer demanding papers, an educated earthling says, "I'm a citizen of Earth, third planet of the Solar System, in the Orion spur of the Milky Way galaxy, which is part of the Local Group in the Virgo Cluster, and I'm headed for the Great Attractor."

Then, of course, we are quickly sent back to our planet of origin, since the aliens fear that we're only trying to get on the Intergalactic Welfare Rolls.

But it's a rare earthling indeed who can pinpoint his place in time. Just so you can adjust your watch, we're in the Holocene epoch of the Quarternary period in the Cenozoic era of the Phanerozoic eon. Or we were until a little over 200 years ago.

Paul Crutzen, Nobel prize winner, has noticed that a new geological force has arisen—namely us—and that it is time to reset our geological clocks. We're now in the Anthropocene epoch. And geologists seem to be accepting the term.

Without major catastrophes like an enormous volcanic eruption, an unexpected epidemic, a large-scale nuclear war, an asteroid impact, a new ice age, or continued plundering of Earth's resources by partially still primitive technology (the last four dangers can, however, be prevented in a real functioning noösphere) mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years, to come. To develop a world-wide accepted strategy leading to sustainability of ecosystems against human induced stresses will be one of the great future tasks of mankind, requiring intensive research efforts and wise application of the knowledge thus acquired in the noösphere, better known as knowledge or information society. An exciting, but also difficult and daunting task lies ahead of the global research and engineering community to guide mankind towards global, sustainable, environmental management.

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