Not a day goes by in the 2010s without some humanities scholars becoming quite exercised about the term Anthropocene. In case we need reminding, Anthropocene names the geological period starting in the later eighteenth century when, after the invention of the steam engine, humans began to deposit layers of carbon in Earth’s crust. Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer’s term has been current since 2000.1 In 1945, there occurred “The Great Acceleration,” a huge data spike in the graph of human involvement in Earth systems. (The title’s Kubrick joke stems from the crustal deposition of radioactive materials since 1945.) Like Marx, Crutzen sees the steam engine as iconic. As this is written, geologists such as Jan Zalasiewicz are convincing the Royal Society of Geologists to make the term official.
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