In the coming years, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) will submit its proposal on the ‘Anthropocene’ to the Subcommission of Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) and the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) for approval. If approved, the proposal will be sent to the Executive Committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for ratification. If the proposal is approved and ratified, then the ‘Anthropocene’ will be formalized. Currently, the ‘Anthropocene’ is a broadly used term and concept in a wide range of scientific and non-scientific situations, and, for many, the official acceptance of this term is only a matter of time. However, the AWG proposal, in its present state, seems to not fully meet the requirements for a new chronostratigraphic unit. This essay asks what could happen if the current ‘Anthropocene’ proposal is not formalized by the ICS/IUGS. The possible stratigraphic alternatives are evaluated on the basis of the more recent literature and the personal opinions of distinguished AWG, SQS, and ICS members. The eventual impact on environmental sciences and on non-scientific sectors, where the ‘Anthropocene’ seems already firmly rooted and de facto accepted as a new geological epoch, are also discussed. This essay is intended as the editorial introduction to a Quaternary
special issue on the topic.
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