Science Saturday

geologica_time_usgs.pngThe End of an Epoch? Geologists from the University of Leicester propose that humankind has so altered the Earth that it has brought about an end to one epoch of Earth’s history and marked the start of a new one—the Anthropocene. Geologists Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams and their colleagues on the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London have presented their research in the journal GSA Today.

In it, they suggest humans have so changed the Earth that the Holocene epoch has ended, identifying phenomena such as:

  • Transformed patterns of sediment erosion and deposition worldwide
  • Major disturbances to the carbon cycle and global temperature
  • Wholesale changes to the world’s plants and animals
  • Ocean acidification

The scientists analyzed a proposal made by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen in 2002. He suggested the Earth had left the Holocene and started the Anthropocene era because of the global environmental effects of increased human population and economic development.

The researchers argue that the dominance of humans has so physically changed Earth that there is increasingly less justification for linking pre- and post-industrialized Earth within the same epoch— the Holocene. [According to my sources, aka Wikipedia, the Holocene epoch began approximately 9600 BC and continues to the present.]

When (Suicide) Boomers Grow Old. Changing demographic trends will impact the future of international relations, reducing terrorism and forcing countries to decide between military spending and caring for the old, according to a press release from Public Policy & Aging Report (PP&AR). Several hotbed areas in the world that offer the motive and opportunity for political violence are due to stabilize by the year 2030.

Countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are currently experiencing “youth bulges” (a disproportionately high number of young people in a society) along with high rates of unemployment. Author Mark L. Haas of Duquesne University argues that this has created many individuals with strong grievances against current political conditions and little stake in society. He then cites research showing that population aging and diminishing youth bulges—which these countries are due to experience in the next 22 years—has been a source of political stability and economic development in many other regions.

The same aging trend is beginning to affect even the most powerful states in the world, including Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

For example, Russia’s working-age population (ages 15 to 64) is expected to shrink 34 percent by 2050. The country’s population is already decreasing by 700,000 people per year. Also by 2050, China’s median age is predicted to be nearly 45. Given this fact, their government will be faced with a difficult choice: allow growing levels of poverty within an exploding elderly population, or provide the resources necessary to combat this problem by diverting funds from military spending.

1 Comment Science Saturday

  1. Jacob R Clark February 10, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Re: Aging suicide bombers

    So there’s hope with these huge increases in old farts!

    Reply

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