The Anthropocene Event as a Cultural Zeitgeist in the Earth-Human Ecosystem

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Emlyn Koster
Philip Gibbard
Mark Maslin


In 2000-2002 a climate scientist and limnologist recommended that the Anthropocene become a human-influenced Geological Time Scale addition. In 2009 an Anthropocene Working Group was mandated by the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s Subcommission of Quaternary Stratigraphy to investigate it. Developments unfolded in several phases. In 2015 as Future Earth announced an acceleration of Earth System and socioeconomic trends since the mid-20th century, the Working Group anticipated that mid-20th century atomic bomb testing fallout would define the base of a new Anthropocene epoch, an approach it affirmed in 2019. During 2022-2023 it coordinated a search for an optimal Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point and another group of geoscientists announced a different Anthropocene definition focused on the intensifying impacts of humanity on environments and climates since the Late Pleistocene. In March 2024 the Working Group’s proposal was declined by the Subcommission, a decision ratified by both the Commission and International Union of Geological Sciences. Manifesting the pure to applied transformation of the geoscience profession with its commitment to ethical approaches, the Anthropocene Event’s dovetailed geological, archaeological and historical realities offer a stimulus for an Earth-human ecosystem mindset, a zeitgeist integrating nature and humanity, and governance of the polycrisis with new partnerships.

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How to Cite
Koster, E., Gibbard, P. and Maslin, M. (2024) “The Anthropocene Event as a Cultural Zeitgeist in the Earth-Human Ecosystem”, JOURNAL OF GEOETHICS AND SOCIAL GEOSCIENCES, 1(1), pp. 1–41. doi:10.13127/jgsg-43.
Author Biographies

Emlyn Koster, Honorary Professor, Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2017, South Africa

Fiftieth anniversary president of the Geological Association of Canada, he is Director Emeritus of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and followed J. Tuzo Wilson as Director General of the Ontario Science Centre. An Alumni of Excellence at the University of Ottawa, his publicly minded focus on the Anthropocene has included inaugural chair of the Anthropocene working group for the International Council of Museums and invited contributions to the United Nations, including on climate change education. With blogging themes including ‘The Earth Around Us’, adjunct appointments have accompanied his museum leadership appointments in Canada and the United States.

Philip Gibbard, Professor Emeritus, Quaternary Palaeoenvironments, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 1ER, United Kingdom

Emeritus Professor of Quaternary Palaeoenvironments in the University of Cambridge, and Dosent (Adjunct Professor) in the University of Helsinki. He took his BSc in Geology at the University of Sheffield and his PhD, and ScD in the University of Cambridge.  He is past-chair of the International Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy and is Secretary General of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. He chaired the INQUA Stratigraphy and Geochronology Commission, is a member of the INQUA Subcommission of European Quaternary Stratigraphy and the Geological Society's Stratigraphy Commission. His research is focused on Quaternary and Neogene terrestrial and shallow marine stratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.

Mark Maslin, Professor, Earth System Science, University College, London, WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom

Professor of Earth System Science at University College, London and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He took his BSc in Geography and Geology at Bristol University and his PhD at Cambridge University. Mark is a leading scientist with particular interest in understanding the climate change and the major challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. His books include ‘Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction’ (2021), ‘The Cradle of Humanity’ (2019), ‘The Human Planet: How we created the Anthropocene’ with Simon Lewis (2018/2022) and his latest book is ‘How to save our planet: the facts’ (2021).

How to Cite

Koster, E., Gibbard, P. and Maslin, M. (2024) “The Anthropocene Event as a Cultural Zeitgeist in the Earth-Human Ecosystem”, JOURNAL OF GEOETHICS AND SOCIAL GEOSCIENCES, 1(1), pp. 1–41. doi:10.13127/jgsg-43.

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