Crawford Lake was chosen by scientists because the annual effects of human activity on the earth’s soil, atmosphere and biology are so clearly preserved in its layers of sediment.
Lake Crawford is a small, deep and picturesque body of water near the Canadian city of Toronto. But its significance changed drastically after scientists symbolically designated this site as ground zero of the early Anthropocene era.
This symbolic designation, made by several scientists during a conference in France, marks the beginning of the geological epoch defined by humanity's massive impact on the planet.
Crawford Lake, which is 29 metres deep and 24,000 square metres wide, was chosen over 11 other sites because the annual effects of human activity on the earth’s soil, atmosphere and biology are so clearly preserved in its layers of sediment.
The sediments of this lake reflect the changing era: they contain debris related to pollution, fuel burning, fertiliser use, pesticides... the ultimate proof of mankind's power as perhaps the most important geological force on the planet.
Called the Anthropocene era - and derived from the Greek terms for “human” and “new” - this epoch started sometime between 1950 and 1954, according to the scientists.
This puts the power of humans in a similar class with the meteorite that crashed into Earth 66 million years ago, killing off dinosaurs and starting the Cenozoic Era, or 'the age of mammals.'
But not quite.
While that meteorite started a whole new era, the working group of scientists suggests that humans only started a new epoch, which is a much smaller geologic time period.
Geologists measure time in eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages. The scientific working group is suggesting that Anthropocene Epoch followed the Holocene Epoch, which started about 11,700 years ago at the end of the ice age.