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  • Maria


The Valve Turners have been inspired by many books on climate change. At a recent talk given by Elizabeth Kolbert on her book, The Sixth Extinction, she brought up the term "Anthropocene." This is the geological name for the human era, suggesting that our impact on the earth is so profound that the geological strata of the future will mark our era.

While the term has been quickly adopted and widely used as a sort of technical shorthand, Kolbert clarifies that from the perspective of scientific accuracy, there is still some debate of whether human impact could be detected in the future study of rocks, millions of years from now. Chillingly, scientists believe the most likely marker of our presence on earth will be radioactivity present in soil worldwide from numerous nuclear missile tests and power plant failures. Another potential marker could be "technofossils," as much of our waste is carbon-based and can be metamorphosed like other carbon-based fossils (phones and plastic in the place of coal and diamonds).

It is shocking to realize that, in geological time, most of our impact (the industrial revolution, coal power plants, fracking, pavement, skyscrapers) will eventually become illegible, leaving only the extreme damage of nuclear radiation. As the US and Russia begin to test new, more powerful nuclear weapons, that fall outside the definitions of past arms limitation treaties, this perspective is particularly helpful. While currently unrelated to climate change, nuclear power is not a replacement for fossil fuels nor a pathway to limit fatality in war. It is instead the most devastating intervention we have made on the earth.

And yet, perhaps if we can join together there is still time to limit the damage we do. ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, is a group seeking to do just that. You can view a video of their recent Paris meeting here.

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