Have we really entered a new geological time period, the Anthropocene? A period where the human impact on the earth is, in fact, so massive that it has created a new geological interval of time?
The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) Monday presented its preliminary findings and recommendations at the 35th International Geological Congress in Cape Town. Among its conclusions so far, is that the anthropocene concept is "geologically real".
FNI research professor Davor Vidas, a member of the AWG and the only lawyer in the group, describes the findings presented today as "a milestone", but also underlines that much work remains to be done:
"The findings that were presented today in Cape Town are still only preliminary. They show where the Group is at this stage of its work and what prospects we envisage for the continuation of the work towards issuing formal recommendations in few years. This is, therefore, no 'decisive moment' for the Anthropocene, as some might think - but already now there is a clear indication that the AWG considers the Anthropocene to be stratigraphically real. Also, a large majority of its members consider the mid-1950s as the starting date for this new geological time unit in the history of the Earth", says Vidas in a statement.
The AWG, which was formed in 2009, is an international scientific body today comprised of altogether 36 members from six continents. Its task is to explore and evaluate relevant evidence and to recommend whether there is a merit in formalizing the Anthropocene as the most recent geological time unit - a time within which we currently live, decisively marked by the impact of human activity on Earth. The group is composed mainly of geoscientists, but also other natural scientists, archaeologists, historians, environmental and social scientists are represented.
The group's work has potentially significant implications, says Vidas:
"The formalization of the Anthropocene through a due scientific process may have serious ramifications not only for natural science but also for the future development of international law."
Today's presentation in Cape Town draws also on discussions the AWG had at its latest (third) meeting, which was held at the FNI in April this year.
So far, the FNI has had two cutting-edge research projects about the Anthropocene and international law; one is on-going: Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in the Anthropocene: Challenges for International Law in the 21st Century - and the other, which was concluded last year, was in fact the first international law research project related to the Anthropocene International Law for an Anthropocene Epoch?