Head MJ, Zalasiewicz JA, Waters CN, Turner SD, Williams M, Barnosky AD, Steffen W, Wagreich M, Haff PK, Syvitski J, Leinfelder R. 2022. The Anthropocene is a prospective epoch/series, not a geological event. Episodes Journal of International Geoscience.
The Anthropocene defined as an epoch/series within the Geological Time Scale, and with an isochronous inception in the mid-20th century, would both utilize the rich array of stratigraphic signals associated with the Great Acceleration and align with Earth System science analysis from where the term Anthropocene originated. It would be stratigraphically robust and reflect the reality that our planet has far exceeded the range of natural variability for the Holocene Epoch/Series which it would terminate. An alternative, recently advanced, time-transgressive ‘geological event’ definition would decouple the Anthropocene from its stratigraphic characterisation and association with a major planetary perturbation. We find this proposed anthropogenic ‘event’ to be primarily an interdisciplinary concept in which historical, cultural and social processes and their global environmental impacts are all flexibly interpreted within a multi-scalar framework. It is very different from a stratigraphic-methods-based Anthropocene epoch/series designation, but as an anthropogenic phenomenon, if separately defined and differently named, might be usefully complementary to it. [link to publication]