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Photo via Wikipedia of Trinity Site explosion, July 16, 1945
Photo via Wikipedia of Trinity Site explosion, July 16, 1945

Here we go again: Overstating our 15-minutes of fame in the universe as being monumentally important.

Scientists in the Anthropocene Working Group have pinpointed an exact date as to when we “took over” the Earth. And that day is July 16, 1945, the first nuclear bomb explosion ever.

The evolution of our planet has long been due to natural forces: weather patterns, glaciers, ocean levels, etc. Now this group of scientists say that this date late in World War II marks a significant change in that pattern, marking the beginning of what should be called the Anthropocene Age, when “human activity began to increasingly shape the planet,” according to this story from the Oregonian.

“Defining the Anthropocene as a new geological epoch would imply that humans are a geological force every bit as powerful as the ‘natural’ ones that caused such things as the onset of ice ages and major extinction events in Earth’s past,” says Anthony Barnosky, a University of California, Berkeley, paleontologist, and one of the authors of a paper on the topic published in Quaternary International.

Why “Anthropocene?” It is a term “coined by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and the late University of Michigan biologist Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to denote the time interval in Earth’s history during which many geologically significant conditions and processes became forever altered by human activities,” writes Robert Sanders of UC Berkeley.

These human activities include a “great acceleration” of population, carbon emissions, species invasions and extinctions, earth moving, and production of concrete, plastics and metals. Hur-rah.

The scientists picked July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, N.M., as the official start date due to our bomb-happy nature afterward: Collectively, we humans have detonated a bomb at an “average rate of one every 9.6 days until 1988,” they report, therefore making it easier for archeologists to “determine whether their latest find occurred in the Anthropocene Age based in part on the presence of artificial radioactivity.”

Getting a little presumptuous that there will actually be archeologists left to poke around in the future, aren’t they?

Not everyone agrees on this official The Day the Humans Took Over date. But they’re going to propose it anyway to the International Commission on Stratigraphy on the designation of the Anthropocene boundary.

Is anyone else as bummed that this might be our proposed legacy?

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