According to scientists, we’re currently in the geological epoch known as the Holocene, which has lasted for the last 12,000 years. The Holocene encompasses the rise of humanity since the last ice age. But some scientists think we have actually entered a new era, called the Anthropocene—an era in which the world no longer shapes humanity, but in which humanity shapes the world to its own purpose and does so to such an extent that it will have permanent effects of the geological record of our planet.
As scientists debate the merits of declaring we are in a new epoch (these things take time and lots of arguing), humanity plods on, continuing to make a massive impact on the planet. Globaia, an organization devoted to promoting an understanding of "big history," has been working on mapping these impacts. We’ve already featured some of their stunning maps, but now they’ve stitched those together into the beautiful video you see above.
As the animated globe turns, you can see what man has wrought upon the planet. The glowing maps show transportation routes and power grids that span the globe. It’s certainly an impressive accomplishment. You can’t but be in awe of the sheer will and determination and skill it’s taken to create this globalized world. At the same time, it’s hard not to gasp at the scale of what we’ve done.
For some larger context, the video below has a soothing British woman describing a little more about what the Anthropocene means and how it came to be. Check out the rapid rise of our influence on the planet since 1950. In the course of one lifetime, the lives of the vast majority of people have improved dramatically. That’s the good part of the Anthropocene. The bad is that to get there, we’ve had to fundamentally change the planet—its air, water, and land may never be the same.
For more detailed maps, check out our earlier post on Globaia’s work, where you can see individual parts of the world or maps that show, for instance, just air travel.