The Anthropocene era depicts a period of time throughout humans’ activity that has directly impacted the geology and ecosystem on Earth. The recent discovery of a total of 208 new minerals perfectly proves the start of this epoch. None of them was created through natural processes. On the contrary, humans were the ones who formed them unconsciously. There are other changes such as the decline of wildlife, alteration of natural landscapes, lost of forests that persuaded scientists to describe this world as dominated by human beings, and not nature.
A scientist at the Carnegie Institution of the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, Robert Hazen, was the lead author of a new study. Together with his colleagues, he managed to identify a wide range of 208 minerals that seem to be an indirect result of human activity on Earth. By comparison, the last major diversification of minerals possibly occurred around 2 billion years ago.
The report was published on Wednesday in the journal American Mineralogist. The International Mineralogical Association acknowledges a mineral to be real as long as it has a crystal structure and it was formed through a natural geological process. However, Hazen believes that with the new Anthropocene era this definition is outdated. Moreover, IMA has already officially acknowledged minerals that were created by human activity, and they grew on their own. For instance, mining work built underground tunnels which proved to be a nice spot for minerals to form.
Hazen and his team colleagues analyzed more such compounds in the IMA list of 5,000 officially recognized minerals. Their findings suggest that 208 of them are actually the reckless result of human activities. There are other crystals that were created artificially, yet they were not recognized by IMA because of the way they formed. For instance, such human-caused minerals are the compounds produced chemically for certain purposes such as cement, magnets, synthetic gemstones, batteries and others.
The Inorganic Crystal Structure Database contains around 180,000 such mineral-like crystals that mark the presence of the Anthropocene era. The inorganic mineral diversification started thousands of years ago. Hazen identified its beginnings to be shortly before the industrial revolution, in the early 1800s, when the rise of chemistry happened.
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