Today I read an article about how the oil industry is depositing massive quantities of their waste water in the deep subsurface. So much so that Oklahoma now has a rash of earthquakes rivaling, nay, beating California for seismic activity.
There is dissent among scientists as to when the start of the Anthropocene should be defined – the era defined by the activities of man that will be visible in the geologic record. Some say it should be ~30,000 years ago, when humans spread across the continents, hunting the macrofauna into extinction – an event that will be visible in the fossil record. Others contend it should be July 16, 1945 – the date of the Trinity atomic bomb tests, the fallout from which is also going to be visible in the strata as a new marker, eons in the future (similar to the fine layer of iridium deposited right at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, from an asteroid impact). Others think it should be around the industrial revolution, when man started to not just impact the climate, but directly drive its changes. Note that there is very little dissent as to whether the Anthropocene is a geologic era or not – nearly all geoscientists agree man’s activities will leave a lasting impression on the layers of our world, enough to merit an era of their own.
Tomorrow I will take the subway to work, and I will recycle, and I will conserve water as best I can. I will research how tiny organisms may react to changes in temperature with global warming. I will feel impotent to affect change, or to apply a brake to this careening, greedy, reckless society. I will contribute my own carbon emissions, despite my efforts. I will use the internet, and book plane tickets, and drink fresh water from a state that has none to offer me. I will be reckless and privileged, like all those around me, individually doing so little harm, while the machine careens onwards.
I believe we will emerge innovative, tech-savvy adapters, not C.H.U.D. when the dust settles. But I also believe there will be quite a lot of dust.
It is Earth Day tomorrow. A day for dialogue and possibly action. It’s the beginnings of a political race here, so I am curious to see if Earth Day is recognized as an opportunity, ignored, or avoided. I’m hopeful for a renewed focus on the environment – maybe it is just retro enough to be cool again.