The geological time-scale of Planet Earth is classified at the highest level in supereons, the first of which was the Precambrian. The supereons break down into eons, then further into eras, periods, and finally epochs. We live in the Phanerozoic eon of a post-precambrian supereon (that apparently does not have an official name for it today). According to the experts, we are officially in the Holocene epoch, which began about 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age. (Interestingly enough, this period of time only represents less than a millionth of the history of the earth.)
Recently, the argument has been raised that we should consider ourselves to be in a new new epoch after the Holocene. This epoch should represent the period of time when the impact of human beings on the earth has become significant and non-reversible. In the past, epochs were broken down based on times of geological change, but the argument is now being made that one should also consider environmental impacts. Regarding human beings, these changes probably began to accelerate with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, and the rate of change has only increased since then. While there is probably no exact moment in time that can be pinpointed as a “turning point”, it is clear that we now cannot turn back our impact on the planet. (I have argued in the past that all changes take place over some period of time even if some of these changes seem to be instantaneous within the time-frames that we are familiar with.)
Even though it is not officially recognized, people are calling the current period of time in the earth’s history the Anthropocene epoch.
A fundamental theme in the consideration of the existence of a new epoch is that humans have finally managed to change the nature of the planet to the extent that we cannot ignore our environmental impacts. The destruction caused is irreversible. It is a sad consequence of our progress, of our knowledge and technology, of our “civilization”. What will the post-Anthropocene epoch look like when all is said and done? Or perhaps we will all be destroyed by some cosmic event that we have no control over and none of this will matter in the long run. I suppose the post-Anthropocene epoch could still happen due to other reasons.