“By thinking through the periodization of extinction, these questions of power, agency, and the Anthropocene become more insistent. If we are discussing humanity’s role in obliterating the biodiversity we inherited when we evolved as a discrete species during the Pleistocene epoch, the inaugural moment of the Anthropocene must be pushed much further back in time than 1800. Such a move makes sense since the planet’s flora and fauna undeniably exercise a world-shaping influence when their impact is considered collectively and across a significant time span. Biologists have recently adopted such a longer view by coining the phrase “defaunation in the Anthropocene.” How far back, they ask, can we date the large-scale impact of Homo sapiens on the planet? According to Franz Broswimmer, the pivotal moment was the human development of language, and with it a capacity for conscious intentionality. Beginning roughly 60,000 years ago, Broswimmer argues, the origin of language and intentionality sparked a prodigious capacity for innovation that facilitated adaptive changes in human social organization. This watershed is marked in the archeological record by a vast expansion of artifacts such as flints and arrowheads. With this “great leap forward,” Homo sapiens essentially shifted from biological evolution through natural selection to cultural evolution.”

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