More unique minerals exist on Earth than ever before and humans are to blame.
American Mineralogist recently published a paper exploring the possibility that human activity may have helped to establish the distinct geological time, dubbed the Anthropocene
Era, that we now live in.
To date, mineralogists have discovered more than 5,000 officially recognized mineral species on Earth, 208 of which are said to occur mainly due to human activity. Some of the structures were created intentionally and others were produced by accident.
The deliberate mineral creations have been used in batteries, cement, and magnets among other things, while the “accidental” minerals have been formed not only by natural forces like lightning, but also through human engineering.
Human-created minerals date back thousands of years, but became more prominent during the industrial revolution when greenhouse gas emissions first began contributing to atmospheric warming.
“The quantities are only going to grow as more and different kinds of materials are produced and then weathered,” said Robert Hazen, research leader and scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Science.
Human alteration of the planet is typically viewed in a negative light, especially when it comes to climate change and pollution, but in terms of mineral creation, Hazen cites this as a positive example of “boundless” human creativity.
One thing’s for sure, human influence will certainly leave a lasting legacy on Earth. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is open for interpretation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay, CC0
Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.