The "Anthropocene" and "the Present is the Key to the Past"

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Here, I share my thinking about the coming into existence of the “Anthropocene” as to-be-formalised chronostratigraphic terminology. I present and frame my preferred meaning for it, and my preferred slot for the interval: as an uppermost unit in the Holocene Series, following the late Holocene. The Anthropocene is more or less synonymous with “the present” and “the now” in modern earth science. It covers the time when observant scientists were around and from which we have more than geology alone on which to base scientific records of Earth (the age of measurement). This happens to coincide with humans becoming a geological factor, mostly because humankind discovered what it could do with geology: change Earth. In that vein, I opt to link the base of the Anthropocene with the appearance in of Lyell’s catchphrase “The Present is the Key to the Past” in the literature, at AD 1830. Defining the exact beginning of the Anthropocene is an arbitrary matter and more or less the same as defining the Present. Linking the definition to Lyell’s key principle makes a point and has benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSTRATI 2013
Subtitle of host publication First International Congres on Stratigraphy. At the cutting edge of Stratigraphy
EditorsRogério B. Rocha, João Pais, José Carlos Kullberg, Stanley Finney
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-04364-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-04363-0
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventSTRATI 2013 - Gulbenkian Conference and Exhibition Centre, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 1 Jul 20137 Jul 2013

Publication series

NameSpringer Geology


ConferenceSTRATI 2013


  • Chronostratigraphy
  • Anthropocene
  • Stratigraphy
  • Philosophy of Nature
  • industrial revolution


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