Anthropocene: The Crawford Reserve is the key to a new era

In the distant depths of Lake Crawford in Ontario, Canada, unique memories of planet Earth are stored. The layered sediments of this lake are a veritable diary detailing events that have taken place on our planet over the centuries. The site has been the subject of a group of experts who call for it to be recognized as a symbol of the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch.

The Anthropocene is not yet an officially recognized unit of geological time, but it is defined by the large-scale changes humans have made to the Earth’s surface. A working group of a subcommittee of the International Commission on Stratigraphy concluded that human influence has left deep scars that will be visible into the future.

Our presence on the planet will be reflected in geologic features, radioactive isotopes, chemical concentrations, and changes in the fossil record. These deviations may become obvious enough to justify the creation of a new epoch, but what event deserves to be the starting point of the Anthropocene remains a matter of debate.

Among all the recognized geologic features, however, one place stands out in particular: the Crawford Reservation. Here, the depths of the lake hold unique data on the activities of local Iroquois communities over the centuries. This data gives scientists a clear picture of how human influence has changed the environment.

One of the key indicators of the Anthropocene is the presence of plutonium. In nature, plutonium is only present in trace amounts, but in the mid-20th century, plutonium levels increased dramatically due to nuclear testing. This is clear evidence that humanity has become such a dominant force that it has left a unique global footprint on the planet.

Andrew Cundy, an expert in environmental radiochemistry, says: “The presence of plutonium is a clear indicator of when humanity became so influential that it left a unique imprint on our planet.”

To accept the Anthropocene as a new epoch, it is necessary to establish boundaries between epochs and their stages. The Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GBSSP), a golden spike, is used for this purpose. This point standardizes the boundaries and defines when significant events in Earth’s history occurred.

The Anthropocene Working Group (AGW) has spent the last three years evaluating different locations to define the Anthropocene golden spike. Finally, they have made their choice – the Crawford Preserve.

This location is of special significance because it holds not only data on Iroquois activities, but also data on human impact on the environment over the centuries. This provides a complete picture of how mankind has shaped the natural world.

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