Dating the Anthropocene

P.H. Pattberg*, Michael Davies Venn

*Corresponding author for this work

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


The Anthropocene has become a widely discussed narrative for our relationship with the natural environment and planet Earth, both in popular culture and across many scientific disciplines. However, the Anthropocene has not yet been officially recognized by the International Union of Geological Sciences and its International Commission on Stratigraphy. In this chapter, we argue that deciding on an appropriate start date and related marker is more than a technical-administrative act, because this decision enables different narratives of the Anthropocene, which, depending on the choices made, will shape future governance and societal debates. In particular and irrespective of the actual formal decision by the relevant scientific authorities, alternative dates matter, as they discursively broaden ideas around the Anthropocene. Consequently, we analyze five suggested start dates (Pleistocene fire; early Anthropocene; Orbis hypothesis; Industrial revolution; Great acceleration) along the following questions: What golden spike/GSSP is proposed? Which activity caused it? Who was the main agent behind that activity? What were the immediate impacts of that activity and how are these impacts evaluated by audiences today? And finally, what possible governance responses are related to a specific start date? Our chapter concludes with suggesting overarching narratives to capture each start date, marker and possible governance implications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Anthropocenic Turn
Subtitle of host publicationThe Interplay between Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Responses to a New Age
EditorsGabriele Duerbeck, Philip Huepkes
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781003037620
ISBN (Print)9780367480158
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge interdisciplinary perspectives on literature


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