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Humans are changing the Earth

60 years ago – 0.06 millimetres

Urbanization is seen especially well in metropolies such as New York. (Irwing Underhill)

Rapid population growth associated with industrialization, intensive farming and urbanization are changing geological processes on the Earth and causing extinctions. The structure of DNA and the genetic code is deciphered. The concept of plate tectonics is emerging. Manned space flights begin, and within 10 years man sets foot on another celestial body, the Moon.

Kuva: View to New York. Urbanization changed land use. Irwing Underhill | Wikimedia


Technology has provided humans a possibility to affect and change the conditions on the home planet, up to unprecedented levels. People, who have spread throughout the planet, have affected the climate and the natural cycles of the elements, created artificial sediments in the stratigraphy, and reduced and destroyd the habitats for other species. This is causing the sixth large mass extinction on the Earth. These changes are so significant that many geologists consider that we are not living any more in the Holocene, but in the new Anthropocene epoch.

The milestone for the turning of epochs has been suggested to be for example the industrial revolution, the fallout from the nuclear tests in the 1950-60’s, the spreading of natural species as a consequence of the global discovery trips, or even, the beginning of the agriculture, some 10 000 years ago. Most of the large alterations have been greatly accelerated since the 1950s. Exceptionally fast population growth and its associated increase in agricultural production, and in industrialization and urbanization, have very rapidly changed the land use, and the use of the natural resources. As a consequence, the natural habitats have diminished, use of fossil fuels and the climate warming have increased, and the current sediments reveal “technofossils” like carbon particles, radionuclides, plastics, metals, concrete, pesticides and nitrogen oxides; all this is occurring with increasing speed. Alterations in the nitrogen cycle and expansion of new minerals are now largest since the oxygen revolution some two and half billion years ago. Humans have become a natural force that changes the globe in a geologically significant scale.

Increased productivity of farming has made urbanization possible, improved the nutritional situation but has had major impact on environment and is dependent on fossil fuels.

Intensive farming. Image: Interphoto, Alamy Stock Photo.