Groping Our Way Toward a New Geologic Era by Allysyn Kiplinger, 2010

by Allysyn Kiplinger, Spring 2010

1. Introduction

The Universe gropes its way forward in fits-and-starts, progressing by trial and error through a multiplicity of attempts and efforts, moving in many directions as it looks for a breakthrough, for a leap forward in evolution and consciousness.    This is how Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin described progress.  Indeed, the Universe seems to be groping toward a new kind of consciousness that leads to a new geologic era.  Thomas Berry named it the Ecozoic era.

In this article I share my personal and intellectual journey of discovery of this emerging era.  I offer the etymology and the story of how the word was invented, its relationship to geology, and the 19th century terms and milieu that preceded it.  I also offer a discussion of contemporary humans’ relationship to deep time, and the possibility of humans directing geology in a mutually enhancing manner.  My ultimate intent is to contribute to the development of a richer vocabulary with which to value life, the Earth community, and human-Earth relations.

2. My Instructions

“We get our instructions from visions and dreams.”   ~ Thomas Berry

For years I have been enamoured by Thomas’s neologism Ecozoic – for reasons intellectual and spiritual, personal and planetary, obvious and mysterious.  My fascination is so strong that I am attempting to recreate my professional life around the flourishing of the word and, more importantly, the profound ideas encompassed by it.

A number of years ago, during a period of intense doubt about all things Ecozoic, I imagined myself trying to explain Ecozoic to an audience at a local bookshop.  A disdainful detractor at my imaginary presentation aggressively stood and unreasonably challenged me.  He loudly demanded from the back of the room “Who are you to promote such a made-up word?  Who gives you the right to promote it?”  He was mean, rude, and boarder-line crazy.  Who was I to use a made-up word with such confidence?  Who gave Thomas the authority to invent it?  In fact, by what authority did any geologist, any thinker, any inventor ever act, to invent what they did? After a time I realized the imaginary man at the back of the room was one of my Guides asking me, in a not-so-subtle-way, to clarify my thinking about Ecozoic ideas.

The vision reminded me that we humans live in a self-made world.  Every word, every concept, every tool – large or small, grand or mundane – was first conceived or invented by one of our human ancestors.   While Earth and Universe are the original sources of the creativity, it was a particular, individual human being, responding to a creative force, that invented the word, concept, or tool.  While humans did not make the tongue we made the language, while we did not make the continent we made the country, while we did not make the tree we made the table.  Of course, the human community had to find the invention useful, adopt it, and incorporate it into the culture. But look around!  Everywhere there is proof that our ancestors confidently acted on their own authority and collectively invented the human world we live in today. Who gave Thomas the right, the authority, to invent the word Ecozoic?  Earth and Universe endowed Thomas with unique sensitivities, and Thomas acted on his own authority – a grand human tradition.  If the Ecozoic era is to be created we can rely on our own authority to help create it, groping forward.

3. A Survey of the Word Ecozoic

As you may know, the etymology of Ecozoic is “eco-“ derived from the Greek word “oikos” meaning house, household, or home, and “-zoic” from the Greek word “zoikos” meaning pertaining to living beings.  Thus Ecozoic era is defined as the era of the house of living beings.

It was coined by Thomas while in extended conversation with Brian Swimme in the late 1980s. Brian says,

When Thomas and I were writing The Universe Story, this would have been the late 1980s, we wanted to get the right name for the emerging era.  We went round and round and round trying out possibilities.  This was while we were working in motels or eating meals in restaurants or talking on the phone in between meetings. 

Then one night, I don’t know the exact date, the phone rang and I answered and it was Thomas.  He didn’t say “hello” or anything.  He just launched right into it.  His voice was explosive with excitement.  ‘I’ve got it!  It’s the Ecozoic Era!’ We both burst into laughter — our instant, mutual recognition of just how right this term was. It was the first time the word was ever thought of.   It’s an example of Thomas’s geological consciousness.

This occurred sometime after the 1988 publication of Thomas’s The Dream of the Earth as the word Ecozoic is absent from that book although the concept is fairly well developed in chapter 5, “The Ecological Age”.   In 1990 he uses the term, shyly, in the thirteen-part VISION-TV series filmed at Holy Cross Centre in Port Burwell, Ontario.  That video series was transcribed and in 1991 published as Befriending the Earth.  Later in 1991 Thomas had fully developed the term.   He uses it with ease in his Schumacher Lecture in October 1991 entitled “The Ecozoic Era” in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  In 1992 it is used in the subtitle of the book he co-authored with Brian, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era.

Brian continues:

I’m also fairly certain that his invention of the word came in reflecting on Teilhard.  Teilhard’s word for the next era was ‘psychozoic.’  Thomas always found that too anthropocentric.  I love the way the ideas of Teilhard blossomed forth in Thomas with new dimensions, especially regarding
Ecology. , 

The glossary of The Universe Story offers a mature definition for Ecozoic:

The emerging period of life following the Cenozoic, and characterized, at a basic level, by its mutually enhancing human-Earth relations.  The word derives from the scientific tradition that divides the Phanerozoic eon into the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras. 

4. The Three Eras of Life: Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic

The words we use to describe the stages of Earth’s story, like all words, were coined by someone.   Because Thomas invented Ecozoic to stand with other geologic terms, my curiosity lead me to inquire about the coining of Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. 

What is revealed as one ponders this story of Earth and life is that Earth is “about” something unique at different stages of its development, is involved in different kinds of Great Work at different times, and has different “projects” in different chapters of its life. While trying to understand Earth’s story, geologists of the 18th and 19th centuries noticed that lower strata of rocks contained fossils of simpler life forms while higher strata contained fossils of more complex life forms. If one arranged these fossils based on the assumption that life became more complex over time one could create a narrative of the complexification of life on Earth  with three distinct stages revealing themselves: the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras.

Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), a founder of modern geology, teacher of Charles Darwin, and professor at Cambridge University coined the term Paleozoic era  (Greek for “ancient life”) in 1838.   In 1840, inspired by Sedgwick, John Phillips (1800–1874), a savant and professor of geology at Kings College London and Oxford University, coined the terms Mesozoic era (Greek for “middle life”) and Cenozoic era  (Greek for “recent life”).   In the naming of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic Eras, Sedgwick and Phillips extended our imaginations, capturing stages of the story of Earth and of life.

5. A Quick Primer of the Nomenclature of Geochronology

Developed over the last three centuries, Earth’s geological story is classified into ever-more-specific units of geological time.  The units, like the Russian nesting dolls, are called:

  • super eon – a unit of time spanning billions of years; for example, the Precambrian
  • eon – a unit of time spanning hundreds of millions of years; for example, the Phanerozoic
  • era – a unit of time spanning dozens of millions of years; for example, the Cenozoic
  • period – a unit of time spanning millions of years; for example, the Jurassic (named in 1795)
  • now, with standardization of nomenclature, indicated by the suffix –gene
  • epoch – a unit of time spanning many thousands of years; for example, the Pleistocene
  • now, with standardization of nomenclature, indicated by the suffix -cene
  • age – a smaller unit of time spanning thousands of years; for example, the Boreal

Time units of the same title need not span the same number of years.  For example, the Paleozoic era was about 291 million years in duration, while the Mesozoic spanned about 180 million years, and the Cenozoic  about 65 million years. 

Because there are colloquial uses of the geologic time scale terms (eon, era, period, epoch, age) many-a conversation about the Ecozoic era has gotten unfocused and off point.   I encourage you to stay focused on Thomas’s definition of Ecozoic and to stay focused on the scientific definition of an era.   This is crucial for a full understanding of the term.

6. Thinking in and Relating to Deep Geologic Time

By offering us Ecozoic, Thomas asks us to look into the deep time of the planet and the biosphere, just as his predecessors Sedgwick and Phillips did when they named the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras.  By suggesting the term Ecozoic era to follow the Cenozoic era we are being asked to think, to be aware, to pay attention in the scale of “eras”, in other words, in dozens of millions of years, not decades, not millennia, not even a few million years, but in dozens of millions of years.  We are being asked to think in deep time.

Why?  Because human actions today reach through ages, epochs, and periods into eras.   Thomas didn’t suggest the name Ecozoic age, or Ecozoic period but the Ecozoic era.  This is, of course, because he wanted us to expand our deep-time consciousness and realize the long term effect of our current dysfunctional, maladaptive cosmology which easily extends millions of years into the future. We deform geology, extinguish species, desolate the biosphere, poison the atmosphere, desiccate the hydrosphere – all of which change the starting point for future generations of life and for all Earth systems. 

When those of us with geological consciousness describe the reach of humans into anything less than periods or eras (on the time scale of millions of years) we harm Earth and thus ourselves.  For example, when Paul Crutzen, Nobel Laureate and atmospheric chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, coined the term Anthropocene in 2000 he wasn’t thinking in deep enough time.  Crutzen regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth in recent centuries to be significant enough to constitute a new geological phase.  On that he and I can agree: the whole Earth community will be dealing with anthropogenic affects for a very long time.  Yet he chose a word, Anthropocene, whose etymological suffix, -cene, means an epoch, naming a scale of thousands of years. The changes we have made reach far beyond thousands of years.  I invite Crutzen, his colleagues, and the scientific community  to consider nesting the new epoch, the Anthropocene epoch, within the Ecozoic era.  I believe it could orient us all toward the New Cosmology and a vibrant Earth community.

By using the term Ecozoic era we are also being invited to have a personal relationship with the new geologic era that is beginning to rise in our lifetimes.  It seems we may be able to help shape it.

7. Where Do Humans Fit In? A Quest to Name the Human Era of Earth

Imagine you are a 19th century geologist.  It is 1850.  The idea of deep time and “evolution” seems pretty likely to be true.  You’ve arranged your large collection of fossilized animals from less complex to more complex anatomies, creating a narrative of transmutation over time.   You have correlated this fossil narrative with the stratigraphy of rock formations. Your theories about geology and the story of Earth are only strengthened.  You become more confident as more evidence arrives from colleagues around the world, as the growing number of geologic periodicals increase, and as meetings of geologists become more frequent as travel becomes easier and more reliable.  The global geological conversation is happily intensifying.  It seems that the arc of understanding Earth’s development may be in place.  The puzzle that is geology seems nearly complete.  But then you notice you forgot one puzzle piece in your hand – the human piece!  Where do  human beings fit into your geological narrative? Are they part of Earth?  The Christian theology that surrounds you in the culture suggests that humans are not of this world, but are unnatural additions to Earth, sinners, fallen foreigners hailing from another realm.  Yet, you privately wonder – “What if humans are a natural part of creation?”  Where would they fit in to the organic geology you know so well?

Many 19th century geologists, while studying and publishing about the grand, macro-phase development of Earth, also studied and wrote short field guides to areas they knew well, often the lands around their childhood homes.  The field guides described organic geologic forms like mountains, hills, cliffs, and rivers.  But they would include anthropogenic incursions into organic geology by mines, quarries, canals, tunnels, and roads – obvious and powerful examples of human impact on geology.  As witnesses to the rapid industrialization of the 19th century, geologists noticed that humankind commanded as much power to affect geology as oceans, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, landslides, volcanoes, and asteroids.

For one hundred and fifty years the question has nagged the geologic community: “What is the relationship of humans to geology and to Earth?”  Perhaps it occurred in other disciplines, but geologists were particularly sensitive to the relationship between time, Earth, life, and human beings.   The task of being a geologist required that they develop a unique sensitivity to the story of Earth requiring the inclusion of how humankind was responsible for changing that story.  They saw things in a way others did not.  They developed a new way of looking at and understanding Earth.  They evolved a new organ of perception.

8. The Family Tree of the Ecozoic Era

I’d like to introduce you to the family tree of the term Ecozoic.  There were terms that existed before the 19th century, like Buffon’s “realm of man”, but I regard them as Dante Alighieri regarded the virtuous Pagans in the first circle of Hell of his Inferno: well-meaning but unable to join the journey because they were unbaptized by geological knowledge.   So for this brief study I begin in the 19th century.

As with any genealogy, more information is known about some ancestors than others.  New members may be added and new details may come to light.  Between 1859 and 2000 we know of six terms that were proposed by geologists and cultural historians for the time when humans participate in shaping Earth and thus the Earth community.  Besides a brief discussion of each term, below, I’ve included a few historical background events, indicated with an arrow and an indent, to briefly sketch the historical milieu out of which the terms came.  Let us begin.

  • 1838 – Adam Sedgwick coins “Paleozoic era”.
  • 1840 – John Phillips coins “Mesozoic era” and “Cenozoic era”.
  • 1857 – The Alpine Club of London founded. The oldest gentlemen’s mountaineering club.
  • 1863 – The Italian Alpine Club founded inspired by the London club. Stoppani, the inventor of the Anthropozoic era, was president of the Milan chapter in 1874.  A generation later it helped inspire John Muir to start the Sierra Club in Martinez, California in 1892.
  • 1859  – Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published.

1859 – Age of Mind
The Age of Mind is coined by geology professor James Dwight Dana (1813-1895) of Yale University.  In 1859 he wrote an article called  “Anticipations of Man in Nature” in the journal “The New Englander” in which he says, “The present age, the Age of Mind, is that towards which all the preceding ages were preparatory – a fact strongly urged by Dr. (Horace) Bushnell.”    This reminds me of Teilhard’s noosphere moving toward Omega.  Many of Dana’s ideas blossomed for generations including in Teilhard including, 1) the idea of Earth as a single evolving unit ;  2) the term “radial”;  3) the idea of “cephalization” or the “headward movement” of evolution ;   4) the “law of progress of the whole though not necessarily of all the parts” ; as well as 5) geologist Agassiz’s idea of the “law of differentiation”  which Dana promoted.  I believe many important seeds of Teilhard’s philosophy, and therefore Thomas and Brian’s philosophy, and therefore the philosophy of the Ecozoic era, will be found in 18th and 19th century theology.

1862 – Era of Mind – Age of Man
Dana published a ground-breaking textbook The Manual of Geology in 1862.  A standard-bearer for decades, it had revisions in 1863,1865, 1867, and 1875.  I have an undated “Revised Edition” which has a chart on page 132 calling the top stratigraphic layer of Earth the “Age of Man”.   He anticipates Stoppani’s 1873 claim of humans as sui generis, humankind standing alone as unique fruit of creation.

  • 1864 – The book  Man & Nature: Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action is published by George Perkins Marsh.  Marsh’s book began a centuries-long conversation about the role of humankind in the physical shaping of Earth.  Marsh includes Stoppani’s new term “Anthropozoic era” in the 1874 edition.
  • 1866 – Ernst Haeckel coins “ecology”.

1873 – Anthropozoic era
In volume ii of Corso di Geologia the Italian abbot Antonio Stoppani (1824-1891) introduces the term “anthropozoic era”.   He is Milan’s Alpine Club president (1874), and was the maternal uncle, friend, and influencer of the great educator Maria Montessori.   George Perkins Marsh says Stoppani saw “…the action of man as a new physical element altogether sui generis.”    “’The creation of man,’ says he, ‘was the introduction of a new element into nature, of a force wholly unknown to earlier periods.’  ‘It is a new telluric force which in power and universality may be compared to the greater forces of the earth.’”     I believe Marsh’s book which quotes Stoppani was the first introduction of the term to English readers, although the concept had been present since Dana’s 1859 article. 

  • 1875 – Eduard Suess coins “biosphere”, “hydrosphere”, “lithosphere”. (“Atmosphere” was coined in 1638.)

1877 – Psychozoic era
Joseph LeConte (1823-1901) , professor of geology at U. C. Berkeley, coined the term “psychozoic era”.  It first appears in his 1877 text book Elements of Geology, which had 13 revisions from 1878-1907.  He defines “the Psychozoic era, or era of mind” (pg. 269), by saying  “the Neolithic commences the Psychozoic era, or reign of man” (pg. 561).  As a geologist and well-read gentleman, LeConte would have known of Dana’s terms “Era of Mind – Age of Man”, as well as Stoppani’s term “Anthropozoic era”.  I believe LeConte’s term “Psychozoic era” is his attempt at improving the previous terms.  Impressively, the word is adopted and disseminated throughout American society for about two generations with the following examples.

  • 1877 – OED, psychozoic (> from psycho- entry) of or belonging to the geological period of living creatures having souls or minds, i.e., the human period
  • 1878 – Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, History of Saratoga County, New York, 1878, reproduces a “Table of Geologic Time” that includes “Psychozoic Era – Age of Man – Mind”.  He attributes it to Dana’s Manual of Geology.  (I suspect Sylvester meant to reference LeConte. Research pending.)
  • 1892 – LeConte is a founding member of the Sierra Club, fully aware of human actions that change Earth
  • 1897 – psychozoic era Feabody Academy of Science, Salem, MA, March 28, 1897. 112 BULLETIN OF THE ESSEX INSTITUTE. Psychozoic Era listed after Paleozoic and Cenozoic
  • 1903 – psychozoic era In Ezra Morgan Wood’s Beginnings of Faith and Science, CHAPTER VI,  GEOLOGY AND EARTH BUILDING “The Psychozoic era is the era of man” (pg. 82) & “The Psychozoic is the era of soul life, and includes the stone age, the bronze age and the iron age. Man’s appearance on the earth is comparatively recent as compared with the geological periods” (pg. 83).
  • 1913 – psychozoic in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, ”Psy`cho`zo´ic (Geol.) Designating, or applied to the Era of man; as, the psychozoic era.”
  • 1938 – psychozoic era Teilhard, as a geologist, would have been well-aware of LeConte’s text book that contained the term.  He uses it in The Human Phenomenon finished in 1938, published in 1955.
  • 1945 – psychozoic era Vladimir Vernadsky, coiner of the term “noosphere” (with LeRoy and Teilhard), uses it in the last article published before his death.
  • 1945–present – Why do you suppose the term and idea fall from use after the first decades of the 20th century?
  • 1892 – Sierra Club founded by John Muir at his home in Martinez, California with LeConte and others.
  • 1919 – A. P. Pavlov (1854-1929), the Russian geologist, coins “Anthropogene period”. He suggested renaming the Quaternary to the Anthropogene in 1919 . While the western European scientific tradition – to this day! – struggles to fit humans into the organic unfolding of Earth , the eastern European (Russian) scientific tradition came to terms with it early on.  What we western scientific nomenclature users call the Quaternary period, the eastern scientific nomenclature users call the Anthropogene period.  It is the period that saw the emergence of proto-humans and humans beginning about 2.5 mya.  Through his work at the Moscow geological museum Pavlov was a decades-long colleague  of the geologist Vladimir Vernadsky who coined “noosphere” in 1924 with Edouard LeRoy and Teilhard. Pavlov also coined the term anthropogenic to designate an effect or object resulting from human activity. ,   It is impressive that the Russians had the intellectual honesty and clarity, almost a century ago, to place humans in geologic time.  Vernadsky’s “noosphere”, for which we are so grateful, comes out of this tradition which accepts that humans affect Earth, a first step toward geological consciousness.
  • 1924 – An important book Man as a Geological Agent, by R. L. Sherlock.  Man is characterized not just a unique force of nature but acting as a geological force.
  • 1924 – Vernadsky, LeRoy & Teilhard coin “noosphere” extending Suess’s 1875 words “biosphere”, “hydrosphere”, and “lithosphere”.
  • 1935 – Arthur Tansley coins “ecosystem”.
  • 1935 – Maria Montessori, niece of Stoppani, coins “cosmic education” as foundational idea for Montessori education.
  • 1972 – Gaia Theory named by William Golding for inventor James Lovelock.
  • 1989 – Ecozoic Era
  • Thomas Berry coins the term in conversation with Brian Swimme, as reviewed above.

2000 – Anthropocene Epoch

Paul J. Crutzen coined the term on the spur-of-the-moment at a scientific conference in 2000.  As with all of his predecessors, his intent in coining the phrase was to bring attention to the impact humankind has made to Earth.  While the word is gaining attention, I believe its meaning is too shallow and too short-sighted to safely navigate us in to the deep future, as I indicated above.  I find it curious that many current English-language articles reviewing and discussing the term Anthropocene contain a certain shock at the idea that a new geologic stage has been inaugurated, and especially by humankind. What Thomas, Brian, and the Ecozoic movement are embracing has far greater reach than what Crutzen has proposed.

When we look at our family tree as a totality we begin to see a pattern of groping toward greater geological consciousness.  Cosmology professor Dr. Larry Edwards calls this the discovery of “how Earth Earth’s”.

9. Is It Possible for Humans to Prescribe Geology?

As we’ve discussed, Ecozoic was invented to stand in the “scientific tradition” with the fully accepted geologic terms Cenozoic, Mesozoic, and Paleozoic eras.  But Ecozoic is a term that suggests a vision of how the human-Earth community could be, not necessarily how it has been in the past.  This is an intellectually challenging point.   Geology is a descriptive activity, a descriptive science, that narrates chapters of Earth’s story from the past.  Geology does not describe how Earth should be in the future.  Yet, Ecozoic is a prescriptive (or normative) term, describing a geological era that is yet-to-be, or has barely-begun, that will mature and fruit in the future.  Are we directing or prescribing geology when we use the term Ecozoic Era?  

We know humans have been an anthropogenic geologic force for at least six millennia. With micro-phase planning and micro-phase consciousness we have permanently altered organic geology.  We have done this with our quarries, henges, barrows, mounds, polders, pit-mines, strip-mines, and mountain-top mines, slag heaps, oil wells, water wells, dikes, drainage systems, embankments, diversions, canals, dams, tunnels, roads, excavations, sedimentation, dredging, break-waters, landfills, junk yards, bombs, nuclear waste, etc.

With the change of scale that has occurred with our technology and our population, we know we live in a time of profoundly dysfunctional and maladaptive geology.  Humans are a destructive geological force. , Would it be possible for humans to consciously prescribe a future life-enhancing, regenerative time? The fact that we have worked together to make Earth worse off proves we are capable of great things.  Thank goodness we are beginning to understand that we can make Earth better off.  We have prescribed the future.

Thomas reminds us that we live “between stories”, after the Old Cosmology has clearly proved itself to be dysfunctional, but before the New Cosmology has matured to become fully functional. It is like the time after life became perceptive but before it became reflective in the human animal.   The Universe is groping toward a new way which can be sensed but which is not yet formed.  Can you feel it?

Thomas also reminds us that we are genetically endowed for cultural, or transgenetic, solutions as to how to live.  In comparison to other animals we are born very immature or “half-cooked”.  The genetic adaptation of an immature birth allows the culture we are born into to complete us with its unique sensitivities of language, customs, habits, nutrition, body language, etc.  Earth gave humanity the cultural assignment to answer the question “How shall we live?”  We answered that question with a question: “How shall we make Earth so that we may live as we choose?”

With the complete hominization  of Earth, having implicated ourselves deeply into Earth systems, we find that we are now compelled to ask: “What type of macro-phase anthropogenic geology shall we engage in?”

As I understand it, currently all human activity that changes the geologic face of Earth is called anthropogenic.  But not all anthropogenic geologic activity and motivation is equal.  Thomas has offered a prescriptive possibility, a vision of humans living in a mutually enhancing relationship with Earth, the Ecozoic era.  This vision must be compared and contrasted with the current life-destroying geocidal geology directed by corporations, which I hereby call corporogenic geology.  Corporogenic geology is carried out by the “person” known as a “corporation”  , , , that answers not to justice, not to domestic tranquility, not to the general welfare, not to posterity, not to the community of life, not to deep time, but to short term, maladaptive, micro-phase profit.  As we grope our way into the future it is critically important that we draw a distinction between: 1) the consciously anthropogenic actions of families and neighbors deciding how to live sustainably for seven generations on a mountain top, and 2) the anthropogenic action of humans working for a corporation that blows up the tops of the same mountains in the name of corporate profit. 

Anthropogenic geologic activity can be classified thus:
A. Micro-phase impact of past historical times
B. Macro-phase impact with the contemporary scale of activities, which can be divided into
a) Unorganized, unconscious micro-phase geologic activity which now must be considered macro-phase because of the scale of human impact on Earth
b) Corporogenic geologic activity – contemporary, large scale activity that must be halted to preserve and enhance the Earth community
c) Ecozoic geologic activity – nascent and the future Great Work of the human family

10. In Conclusion

In the largest sense, Ecozoic is a term that encompasses the ideas of space-time-human-Earth relations. It asks “How shall we live?” and “How shall we live so that others may live?”  It is a perennial idea deeply embedded in what it means to be human, expressed in the cultures, customs, religions, myths, and facts of the developmental story of the human family.  It has roots that reach deep into the mysterious development of our human body and our human psyche.

The search for a name for our human-Earth era did not begin with Thomas.  He is the inheritor of a rich intellectual tradition and part of the grand matrix of philosophical and practical inquiry that spans back, at least, to the middle of the 19th century.  Many others before him were trying to name and describe the human-Earth relationship within deep time. 

It is no accident that the birth of geology occurred simultaneously, and within the same intellectual community as awareness that humans impact Earth.  It is as if Earth wanted humans to know and understand  our geologic role. This is an early echo of Thomas’s human-Earth relations, a key to the Ecozoic Era.

I share with you this research because I want you to know that, as a movement, we are not the first generation to grapple with the fact that humans change and impact Earth.  Others with Earth consciousness cared deeply and were concerned with human-Earth relations at least 150 years back in time.  I want us to know that we have a history that includes intellectual and spiritual ancestors who thought about the role of civilization to a hominized Earth.  I want us to feel the company and strength of our Ecozoic ancestors as we proceed with our Great Work.   And while those who came before may not have offered deeply sophisticated models of how to create a robust human civilization while living within a healthy Earth community (that would be our Great Work), they did gift us by discovering Earth’s great geological story within which we think and act today.  They gave us the early articulations of healthy human-Earth relations which Thomas and Brian have built upon.  I hope my findings provide you with the context and historical background for our Great Work as we grope our way toward building the Ecozoic Era.  For we stand on the shoulders of giants.


Note 10-28-10:  Footnotes coming soon (I hope).  They were sterilized when transfered onto this website.

One Response to Groping Our Way Toward a New Geologic Era by Allysyn Kiplinger, 2010

  1. Doug Campbell says:

    You're so right!   Any work of writing that makes me think and analyze the path we're on — the path I'm on — is immensely valuable.  Thanks for being brave and saying it.  We need more Allysyn Kiplingers helping shape policy.  

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