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Pieces of plastic waste fouling a beach in Hawaii, USA. The profound impact that the activities of human beings are having on the environment have led to the word Anthropocene being used to describe the current age.

Portmanteau of anthropo- (prefix meaning ‘man’) + words like Holocene, Pleistocene, etc.;[1] supposedly coined in the 1980s by American biologist Eugene F. Stoermer (1934–2012) and popularized by Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen (born 1933) in 2000,[2] but already in use in the 1960s, possibly with a different meaning: see the quotations.


Proper noun[edit]


  1. (geology) The proposed current geological epoch, in which human activities have a powerful effect on the global environment. [from 1960s]
    Coordinate term: Holocene (current epoch)
    Hypernym: Quaternary (current period)
    • 1960, Doklady. Biological Sciences Sections, volume 132–135, Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Biological Sciences, ISSN 0012-4966, OCLC 501426146, page 640, column 2:
      The tempo of evolution in South American hamsters was very rapid – in the course of the Pliocene and Anthropocene 40 genera were formed here, at which time a series of them attained the level of tribe and subtribe (Oxymycteri, Phyllotiini, Ichthyomyini).
    • 1967, Doklady of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.: Earth Sciences Sections, volume 172–177, Washington, D.C.: American Geological Institute, ISSN 0012-494X, OCLC 828201306, page 62, column 2:
      The above palynologic data indicate that the evolutionary history of vegetation in the upper reaches of the Indigirka during the Holocene was much more complex than has been thought and than is reflected in the existing stratigraphic maps of the Anthropocene of the Northeast USSR [].
    • 2000 May, Paul J[ozef] Crutzen; Eugene F. Stoermer, “The ‘Anthropocene’”, in Will Steffen, editor, Global Change Newsletter[2], number 41, Stockholm, Sweden: IGBP Secretariat, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, ISSN 0284-5865, archived from the original on 9 October 2017, page 17:
      Considering these and many other major and still growing impacts of human activities on earth and atmosphere, and at all, including global, scales, it seems to us more than appropriate to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology by proposing to use the term "anthropocene" for the current geological epoch.
    • 2012 January–February, Donald Worster, “A Drier and Hotter Future [review of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest (2011) by William deBuys]”, in American Scientist[3], volume 100, number 1, archived from the original on 1 May 2017, page 70:
      Phoenix [in Arizona] and Lubbock [in Texas] are both caught in severe drought, and it is going to get much worse. We may see many such [dust] storms in the decades ahead, along with species extinctions, radical disturbance of ecosystems, and intensified social conflict over land and water. Welcome to the Anthropocene, the epoch when humans have become a major geological and climatic force.
    • 2013 July 20, “Welcome to the Plastisphere: What is Pollution to Some is Opportunity to Others”, in The Economist[4], volume 408, number 8845, archived from the original on 31 July 2013:
      Plastics are energy-rich substances, which is why many of them burn so readily. Any organism that could unlock and use that energy would do well in the Anthropocene. Terrestrial bacteria and fungi which can manage this trick are already familiar to experts in the field.
    • 2014 October 14, Seth Borenstein, “With Their Mark on Earth, Humans may Name Era, Too”, in Associated Press, Excite[5], archived from the original on 27 March 2017:
      People are changing Earth so much, warming and polluting it, that many scientists are turning to a new way to describe the time we live in. They're calling it the Anthropocene — the age of humans. Though most non-experts don't realize it, science calls the past 12,000 years the Holocene, Greek for "entirely recent." But the way humans and their industries are altering the planet, especially its climate, has caused an increasing number of scientists to use the word Anthropocene to better describe when and where we are.

Usage notes[edit]

As of July 2019, the term has not been adopted in the official geological nomenclature.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Anthropocene” in Lexico,; Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Andrew C. Revkin (11 May 2011), “Confronting the ‘Anthropocene’”, in The New York Times[1], archived from the original on 23 August 2017.