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The Anthropocene: A New Epoch of Geological Time?

A one-day meeting held at the Geological Society on 11 May 2011

Has humanity’s impact on the Earth been so significant that it defines a new geological epoch? In the blink of a geological eye, through our need for energy, food, water, minerals, for space in which to live and play, we have wrought changes to Earth’s environment and life that are as significant as any known in the geological record.

In 2000, Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen first characterised this ‘perfect storm’ of human impacts on the planet, its ecosystems and the geological record as constituting a new ‘Anthropocene’ geological epoch, and the concept has since gained a firm foothold, both in the geological community and more widely. Its significance is not simply a matter of geological taxonomy – it constitutes a new organising principle for natural and social scientists from a wide range of disciplines studying our interactions with life and the planet, for policy makers addressing resource use and environmental challenges, and for a broader public engaging with these debates through traditional and new media.

This important international and interdisciplinary conference included:

  • an evening lecture by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen
  • presentations by international keynote speakers
  • panel discussions

Conference themes

Life and Diversity
Humans and Geology
Socio-Economic Issues


Michael Ellis  (British Geological Survey)
Mark Williams (British Geological Survey & University of Leicester)
Jan Zalasiewicz (University of Leicester, Chair of IGBP Science Committee)
Alan Haywood (University of Leeds)

Speakers and Panelists

Nobel Laureate Professor Paul Crutzen  (Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany)
Will Steffen  (Climate Change Institute, Australia National University)
Dennis Dimick  (National Geographic Magazine)
Davor Vidas  (Fridtjof Nansens Institut, Norway)
Andrew Revkin  (New York Times)
James Syvitski  (University of Colorado)
Dorothy Merritts  (Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Erle Ellis (University of Maryland)
Toby Tyrrell (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton)