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A lake in Ontario is selected to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene

A lake in Ontario is selected to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene

Lake Crawford in southern Ontario has been chosen as the best representation of the planet’s modern world.

By Andrew Joseph,; Image of Crawford Lake in Ontario, Canada by Whpq via Wikipedia

It’s possible that today’s population is more familiar with the eras of dinosaurs and related reptiles than our own.

Hands up if you’ve heard about the Jurassic world. Okay, how about the Anthropocene? That’s the era representing the so-called modern era of humanity.

While highly symbolic, a team of global geologists studied nine sites from around the world—including a peat bog in Poland, a water-filled volcano crater in China, a coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico, and some seafloor in the Baltic—and awarded the distinction of birthplace of the modern world to a small but deep lake in southern Ontario—Lake Crawford.

Surrounded by a dense forest of trees, it hardly looks like the birthplace of anything other than blackflies or mosquitoes, so what gives?

By testing the sediment layers from the bottom of Lake Crawford, geologists found from the 1950 level, evidence of how human activity has changed the planet’s functioning—more clearly evident than anywhere else on the planet.

This lake possesses evidence of the Anthropocene—the Age of People, a newly devised geological epoch.

It only sounds pretty cool. It is, in fact, a sobering reminder of when our planet has changed the way it can be looked at—a system altered that can no longer be attained.

For its designation, the Lake Crawford site was awarded the "Golden Spike" on July 11 at the International Congress on Stratigraphy in Lille, France.

Of course, the Anthropocene designation is just that—a designation in name only.

Not yet official, it must first be voted on by geologists (they rock) at a meeting of the International Union of Geological Sciences in August 2024.

Yes, there’s a debate, as some feel the Anthropocene should begin with the Industrial Revolution in 1760—though it seems to have come to an end as of 1840.

Others say that rather than calling it the Anthropocene, the year 1950 could simply usher in a new age in our current epoch—the 12,000-year-old Holocene. As such, 1950 would mark the beginning of the Crawfordian Age in the Holocene.

The 1950 date is being put forth because it just so happens to be when plutonium-239 begins to show up in geological strata. Plutonium-239 is not a naturally occurring element. It is man-made and is the fallout… er, the result of widespread nuclear weapons testing.

In Lake Crawford, the undisturbed sediments offer evidence of past Indigenous settlements, European colonies, logging industries, farming, the burning of fossil fuels, and testing nuclear weapons (plutonium-239).

The lake was chosen as the best representative of this new era because it lacks any burrowing organisms to disturb the sedimentary strata, allowing scientists to calculate to a precise calendar year just what human interference happened and when.

Don’t worry, though; scientists can determine minute traces of man’s radioactive playthings anywhere and everywhere on the planet. Lake Crawford is safe.

This geological Golden Spike is unrelated to the Golden Spike that united North America by rail, connecting the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento, California, and the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, in what was then the Utah Territory.

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