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TEXT 1: GEOLOGIC TIME TEXT 2: DEFINING THE HOLOCENE EPOCH TEXT 3: PAUL CRUTZEN DESCRIBES THE ANTHROPOCENE TEXT 4: WILLIAM RUDDIMAN DESCRIBES CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE LAST 8,000 YEARS TEXT 5: ATMOSPHERIC METHANE LEVELS IN THE LAST 8,000 YEARS TEXT 6: ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS IN THE LAST 10,000 YEARS TEXT 7: THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE BIOSPHERE TEXT 8: THE CURRENT MASS EXTINCTION TEXT 9: GLOBAL FOSSIL CARBON EMISSIONS FROM 1800 TO 2000 CE TEXT 10: HUMAN PER CAPITA ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE TEXT 11: THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON STRATIGRAPHY: THE STUDY OF THE ANTHROPOCENE WORKING GROUP

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TEXT 1

GEOLOGIC TIME
Geologic Time with Important Events
Era Period Epoch Million Years Before Present Extinction event Modern humans Early humans Events Life Ice Age Earth Formation of Transverse Ranges, CA 1.65  Formation of Andes Mountains  Collision of India with Asia forming Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau Rocky Mountains form 65  Emplacement of Sierra Nevada Granites (Yosemite National Park)  Supercontinent Pangaea begins to break up 245 Ice Age Precambrian 545 Ice Age Ice Age 4600 4600
Paleozo ic

Million Years before Present

True Scale (Million Years before Present)

Holocene Quaternary Pleistocene Cenozoic Tertiary Pliocene Miocene Oligocene Eocene Paleocene Cretaceous

0.01 1.65 5.2 23 35 56 65

 Dinosaur extinction1, extinction event Flowering plants

146 Mesozoic Jurassic 208 Triassic 245 Permian 290 Carboniferous 363 Devonian Paleozoic Silurian 443 Ordovician 495 Cambrian 545 2500 Precambrian 3500 4000 4600 1 Some scientists believe that not all dinosaurs became extinct but that some disosaurs evolved to birds  Explosion of organisms with shells Multicelled organisms  Free oxygen in atmosphere and ozone layer in stratosphere Primitive life (first fossils) 417 Land plants Extinction event Fish Mammals Dinosaurs Extinction event Reptiles Trees (cool swamps) Extinction event Birds

Appalachian Mountains form

Oldest rocks Age of Earth

The Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Geologists break, or periodize, this huge scale of time into smaller chunks called eons, eras, periods, and epochs to make it easier to study. Geologic time is summarized in this chart, which also highlights the current eon, the Phanerozoic (comprising the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic eras), and some of the key developments of life on Earth for certain epochs.
Source Jennifer Nelson, Introduction to Oceanography. Indiana University. 19972007. Accessed September 20, 2012 http://www.iupui.edu/~g115/assets/mod03/geo_time.jpg

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Mes

ozoic

Grasses Whales Extinction event Mammals expand

Ce noz o ic

TEXT 2

DEFINING THE HOLOCENE EPOCH


Geologists have worked hard to define the characteristics of each division in the geologic time scale. These definitions are refined and updated as new evidence becomes available. The Holocene, for example, was added to the scale only in the late 19th century, as the fieldwork of scholars added to our knowledge of recent Earth history. The term Holocene was first proposed at the third International Geological Congress in 1885. It comes from the Greek words holos (meaning whole) and kainos (meaning recent), referring to [the] fact that this epoch is the most recent division of Earth history. The Holocenefollows the Pleistocene Epoch. By consensus, it covers the last 11,500 years of Earth history. It is an important time to scientists because during this epoch most of our modern landscapes and soils evolved. Temperatures rose to approximately their present level, vegetation recolonized northern latitudes, and sea levels approached or slightly exceeded their present height. Where this period differed from anything that had gone before, however, was in the human response to these climatic changes. Anatomically modern humans were now established on every continent of the globe save Antarctica, and once the climatic constraints of the last Ice Age were relaxed, human societies became increasingly prolific, and new forms of social and economic activity developed. Chief among these was agriculture, which arose independently in at least seven regions of the world during the Holocene.
Sources The Holocene, Geologic Time: The Story of a Changing Earth, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, 2012. Accessed August 22, 2012. http://paleobiology.si.edu/geotime/main/htmlversion/holocene1.html Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past, second edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2009 (p. 177).

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TEXT 3

PAUL CRUTZEN DESCRIBES THE ANTHROPOCENE


Paul Crutzen (1933 ) is a chemist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 for his work on the formation and decomposition of ozone. He is typically credited with coining the term Anthropocene and the following excerpts are taken from a brief overview of the Anthropocene that he wrote for Nature magazine. For the past three centuries, the effects of humans on the global environment have escalated. Because of these anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, global climate may depart significantly from natural behaviour for many millennia to come. It seems appropriate to assign the term Anthropocene to the present, in many ways humandominated, geological epoch, supplementing the Holocene the warm period of the past 1012 millennia. The Anthropocene could be said to have started in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when analyses of air trapped in polar ice showed the beginning of growing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. This date also happens to coincide with James Watts design of the steam engine in 1784. The rapid expansion of mankind in numbers and per capita exploitation of Earths resources has continued apace. During the past three centuries, the human population has increased tenfold to more than 6 billion and is expected to reach 10 billion in this century. The methane-producing cattle population has risen to 1.4 billion. About 30-50% of the planets land surface is exploited by humans. Tropical rainforests disappear at a fast pace, releasing carbon dioxide and strongly increasing species extinction. Dam building and river diversion have become commonplace. More than half of all accessible fresh water is used by mankind. Fisheries remove more than 25% of the primary production in upwelling ocean regions and 35% in the temperate continental shelf. Energy use has grown 16-fold during the twentieth century, causing 160 million tonnes of atmospheric sulphur dioxide emissions per year, more than twice the sum of its natural emissions. More nitrogen fertilizer is applied in agriculture than is fixed naturally in all terrestrial ecosystems; nitric oxide production by the burning of fossil fuel and biomass also overrides natural emissions. Fossil-fuel burning and agriculture have caused substantial increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide by 30% and methane by more than 100% reaching their highest levels over the past 400 millennia, with more to follow.
Source Paul J. Crutzen, Geology of Mankind, Nature, Volume 415, January 2002. Accessed March 27, 2012. http://stripe.colorado.edu/~yulsman/anthropocene.pdf

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TEXT 4

WILLIAM RUDDIMAN DESCRIBES CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE LAST 8,000 YEARS


William Ruddiman (1943 ) is an emeritus professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia who was originally trained as a marine geologist. Since 2001 his research has focused on the climatic role farmers played during the last several thousand years by clearing land, raising livestock, and irrigating rice paddies. The following excerpt is taken from his 2005 book Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate. Most scientists accept the view that human effects on global climate began during the 1800s and have grown steadily since that time. The evidence supporting this view looks quite solid: two greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, or CO2, and methane, or CH4) that are produced both in nature and by humans began unusual rises. Both the rate of change and the high levels attained in the last 100 to 200 years exceed anything observed in the earlier record of changes from ancient air bubbles preserved in ice cores. Because greenhouse gases cause Earths climate to warm, these abrupt increases must have produced a warming. But one aspect of the evidenceis deceptive. Magicians use a form of misdirection in which flashing movements with one hand are used to divert attention from the other hand, the one slowly performing the magic trick. In a sense, the dramatic change since 1850 is exactly this kind of misdirection. It distracts attention from an important rise in gas concentrations that was occurring during the centuries before the 1800s. This more subtle change, happening at a much slower rate but extending very far back in time, turns out to be comparably important in the story of humanitys effects on climate. I propose that the real story is [different]. Slower but steadily accumulating changes had been underway for thousands of years, and the total effect of these earlier changes nearly matched the explosive industrial-era increases of the last century or two. Think of this as like the fable of the tortoise and the hare: the hare ran very fast but started so late that it had trouble catching the tortoise. The tortoise moved at a slow crawl but had started early enough to cover a lot of ground.

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The tortoise in this analogy is agriculture. Carbon dioxide concentrations began their slow rise 8,000 years ago when humans bean to cut and burn forests in China, India, and Europe to make clearings for croplands and pastures. Methane concentrations began a similar rise 5,000 years ago when humans began to irrigate for rice farming and tend livestock in unprecedented numbers. Both of these changes started at negligible levels, but their impact grew steadily, and they had a significant and growing impact on Earths climate throughout the long interval within which civilizations arose and spread across the globe.
Source William Ruddiman, Plows, Plagues & Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005) 58 and 1012.

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TEXT 5

ATMOSPHERIC METHANE LEVELS IN THE LAST 8,000 YEARS


UNNATURAL GAS
700 Methane trends during the last 8,000 years

680

PARTS PER BILLION IN ATMOSPHERE

660

640

620

600

580

560
8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0

YEARS AGO

Methane is a chemical compound composed of the elements carbon and hydrogen, and whose chemical formula is CH4. Methane can be produced in the laboratory, but it is also produced naturally by decomposing organic matter in places like wetlands and rivers and streams. Animals that eat grasses are also a source of methane. Termites and cattle, for example, produce methane during the process of digestion of the grasses and other cellulose-based products they consume. The gas is then released into the atmosphere.
Source Nothing New Under the Sun: Anthropogenic Global Warming Started When People Began Farming, The Economist, August 17, 2009. Accessed August 5, 2012. http://www.economist.com/node/14252800?story_id=14252800&fsrc=nwl

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TEXT 6

ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS IN THE LAST 10,000 YEARS


CO2 LEVELS OVER THE LAST 10,000 YEARS
400

350
ATMOSPHERIC CO2 (PPM)

300

250
8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1000 2000

YEARS AGO Taylor Dome Ice Core Law Dome Ice Core Mauna Loa, Hawaii

Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of the elements carbon and oxygen, and whose chemical formula is CO2. Carbon dioxide is produced in the Earths atmosphere in a variety of ways, including respiration in animals, the burning of fossil fuels, and gas emissions in volcanic eruptions. Plants use photosynthesis to convert some of this atmospheric CO2 into energy, and oxygen is a byproduct of this process.
Source John Cook, CO2 Levels Over the Last 10,000 Years, Skeptical Science. 2012. Accessed August 5, 2012. http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=101

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TEXT 7

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE BIOSPHERE


TRANSFORMATION OF THE BIOSPHERE
The effects of human intervention are now apparent on more than half of Earths ice-freeland mass.

100
PERCENTAGE OF GLOBAL ICE-FREE LAND AREA

50

0
6000 BC 3000 1000 0 1000 1500 1750 1900 1950

Densely settled

Croplands

Rangelands

Semi-natural

Wildlands

Physical processes and human action have both played a role in shaping the surface of the Earth. Humans have used surface lands for a variety of purposes, and these purposes have changed over the course of geologic time. These uses have included agriculture, settlements, and forestry, all of which can result in the modification of the land. Since the start of the 20th century, humans in many societies have begun to designate certain lands for protection, as, for example, national parks or game preserves, and this has resulted in a halt to the modification of these particular lands.
Source Nicola Jones, Human Influence Comes of Age, Nature 473, 133 (2011) published online May 11, 2011. Accessed August 29, 2012. www.nature.com/news/2011/110511/full/473133a.html

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TEXT 8

THE CURRENT MASS EXTINCTION


Extinction is a fact of life in the biological world. A huge number of species have existed during the history of the Earth, and scientists estimate that 99.9 percent of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. Because extinction has been so common in the Earths history, most extinctions have gotten little attention. But there have been exceptions to the normal, slow-paced pattern of extinction typical of the history of the Earth. Scientists have identified five points in the history of the Earth when the pace of extinction dramatically intensified and huge numbers of species were rapidly lost. A number of scientists have speculated that the Earth is currently experiencing a mass extinction, and this idea is explored in this text from online PBS material. Is the biosphere today on the verge of anything like the mass extinctions of the geological past? The background level of extinction known from the fossil record is about one species per million species per year, or between 10 and 100 species per year (counting all organisms such as insects, bacteria, and fungi, not just the large vertebrates we are most familiar with). In contrast, estimates based on the rate at which the area of tropical forests is being reduced, and their large numbers of specialized species, are that we may now be losing 27,000 species per year to extinction from those habitats alone. The typical rate of extinction differs for different groups of organisms. Mammals, for instance, have an average species lifespan from origination to extinction of about 1 million years, although some species persist for as long as 10 million years. There are about 5,000 known mammalian species alive at present. Given the average species lifespan for mammals, the background extinction rate for this group would be approximately one species lost every 200 years. Of course, this is an average rate. The actual pattern of mammalian extinctions is likely to be somewhat uneven. Some centuries might see more than one mammalian extinction. Conversely, sometimes several centuries might pass without the loss of any mammal species. Yet the past 400 years have seen 89 mammalian extinctions, almost 45 times the predicted rate, and another 169 mammal species are listed as critically endangered.

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Therein lies the concern biologists have for many of todays species. While the number of actual documented extinctions may not seem that high, they know that many more species are living dead populations so critically small that they have little hope of survival. Other species are among the living dead because of their interrelationships. For example, the loss of a pollinator can doom the plant it pollinates. A prey species can take its predator with it into extinction. By some estimates, as much as 30 percent of the worlds animals and plants could be on a path to extinction within 100 years.
Source The Current Mass Extinction, Evolution, PBS.org. 2001. Accessed August 29, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/03/2/I_032_04.html

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TEXT 9

GLOBAL FOSSIL CARBON EMISSIONS FROM 1800 TO 2000 CE


GLOBAL FOSSIL CARBON EMISSIONS
7000

6000

5000
MILLION METRIC TONS OF CARBON/YEAR

4000

3000

2000

1000

0
1850 1900 1950 2000

Total

Petroleum

Coal

Natural Gas

Cement Production

The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century helped create the modern world, and this revolution was heavily dependent on energy resources. Modern societies consume huge amounts of energy: to power factories, to provide electricity for growing cities, and to run complex machines. These increasing energy needs have been met in large part by an expansion in the use of fossil fuels. One byproduct of the use of fossil fuels has been an increase in the amount of atmospheric CO2, which was discussed in Text 6. In this text, carbon emissions for the last 200 years are broken down by the particular type of fossil fuel that produced them.

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Source Global Fossil Carbon Emissions. Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College. Last Updated June 17, 2012. Accessed August 5, 2012 (note: this graph was adapted from a graph originally published by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center). http://serc.carleton.edu/eslabs/carbon/3c.html

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TEXT 10

HUMAN PER CAPITA ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Human energy use has increased over time. Modern society makes much greater energy demands than either foraging societies or agrarian societies. How humans have allocated their energy use has also changed over time. This chart compares human energy usage and allocation at some key points in human history.
Source J.G. Simmons, Changing the Face of the Earth: Culture, Environment, History, second edition. (Oxford, UK: Blackwell 1996).

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TEXT 11

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON STRATIGRAPHY: THE STUDY OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE ANTHROPOCENE
Geologists have worked hard to make sense of the history of the Earth. Over the past two centuries, they have developed the terminology for talking about Earths history and defined the major divisions of that history. The International Commission on Stratigraphy is the professional organization responsible for maintaining and updating the geologic timescale. The organizations primary mission is setting global standards for the fundamental scale for expressing the history of the Earth. The organization maintains 16 subcommissions, each of which focuses on a very specific division of the geologic timescale. The Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy focuses on the most recent history of the Earth, and the Working Group on the Anthropocene was created within this subcommission to study the issues raised by the Anthropocene epoch debate. What is the Anthropocene? current definition and status

 he Anthropocene is a term widely usedto denote the present time interval, in T which many geologically significant conditions and processes are profoundly altered by human activities. These include changes in:  rosion and sediment transport associated with a variety of anthropogenic e processes, including colonization, agriculture, urbanization and global warming.  he chemical composition of the atmosphere, oceans and soils, with significant t anthropogenic perturbations of the cycles of elements such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and various metals. environmental conditions generated by these perturbations; these include global  warming, ocean acidification and spreading oceanic dead zones.  he biosphere both on land and in the sea, as a result of habitat loss, predation, t species invasions and the physical and chemical changes noted above.

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 he Anthropocene is not a formally defined geological unit within the Geological Time T Scale. A proposal to formalize the Anthropocene is being developed by the Anthropocene Working Group for consideration by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, with a current target date of 2016. Broadly, to be accepted as a formal term the Anthropocene needs to be (a) scientifically  justifiedand (b) useful as a formal term to the scientific community. In terms of (b), the currently informal term Anthropocene has already proven to be very useful to t he global change research community and thus will continue to be used, but it remains to be determined whether formalization within the Geological Time Scale would make it more useful or broaden its usefulness to other scientific communities, such as the geological community.

Source Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, Working Group on the Anthropocene. Last updated June 27, 2012. Accessed August 6, 2012. http://www.quaternary.stratigraphy.org.uk/workinggroups/anthropocene/

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