“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. This phrase – from William Shakespeare’s tragic play Romeo & Juliet – is among the most famous acknowledgements in Western culture of the power of naming to shape human perception.
According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization that defines Earth’s time scale, the current time belongs to an epoch named the Holocene – which began 11,500 years ago after the last ice age. However, in recent years, many scientists have advocated to name a new epoch to more accurately reflect the idea that humans have become the dominant planet-shaping force. The name they have proposed places humankind’s actions – and their consequences – squarely at the center: the Anthropocene — anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “geological epoch”.
The need to name a new epoch is gaining wide acceptance as most experts agree that this time period has been marked by geologically significant changes brought about by human activities, such as an accelerated rate of species extinction and changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, oceans and soils. The Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA) – an international group of planetary scientists – voted to formally designate the epoch Anthropocene and presented the recommendation at IUGS’ International Geological Congress in August of last year. (1)
There you go.
Words give meaning.
In this case, meaning to our existence.
Defining it. Making it real.
We exist in the Anthropocene.
We seize to exist in Holocene.
It may seem like a game with words.
But look again.
There are no humans in the void…
Speak my name. And I will be there.