Jewish calendar and Shabbat marks start of Antropocene Era

A new and better definition of what makes Homo Sapiens unique; is that we are the only species that has actually changed the world’s climate and its ecological balance by our own activities, during the fifty eight centuries since our Jewish calendar started.

Human caused climate change starts with mankind (Adam and Eve) leaving the Garden of Eden (nature pre farming, Genesis 2:5) to begin the hard work of farming and terraforming the earth (Genesis 3:19). Over the next six millennia, we are starting to learn, humans have increasingly changed the world’s climate, and even the course of evolution and species extinction.

The Torah tells us that the exit of Adam (mankind) from the Garden of Eden marks the transition of one species-Homo Sapiens- from the realm of being part of nature, to the realm of dominating and therefore being responsible for nature (Genesis 1:27-8).

Now a recent study published 12/16/15 in the journal Nature, found and confirmed a surprising and very recent shift away from the steady relationship among species that prevailed for more than 300 million years.

This study offers the first long-term view of how species associated with each other for half of the existence of multicellular life on Earth has decisively changed said co-author Donald Waller, a professor of botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“We did not expect, or predict, that we would see continuity in the fossil record for such a long time. The fraction of plant and animal species that were positively associated with each other was mostly unchanged for 300 million years. Then that fraction sharply declined over the last 6,000 years,” says Waller, a plant ecologist.

Species are ‘positively associated’ if they are found in the same place and time. Starting about 5776 years ago, negatively associated species were preponderant, meaning plants and animals are seldom found in the same place over a long time, a sign that longstanding relationships have been disturbed.

In assessing the cause of the dramatic change they found, the researchers first eliminated five possible sources of error. The most likely cause for the shift, the researchers state, was rapid human population growth, with ensuing effects from plant and animal agriculture.

“The conclusion we reluctantly came to is that there have been systematic changes around the world in ecological conditions, prompting changes in the pattern of species coexistence,” Waller says. “This is an aspect of global change that has never been noticed, or documented before.”

The situation on continents, often recognized as having more stable species assemblages, is now starting to resemble the situation on islands, Waller says. “In general, island habitats are fragmented, and species are vulnerable and declining. Islands are models for conservation biology because they indicate what happens in the end game” as species go extinct and biodiversity declines.

In fact, the study even provides a way to date the start of the anthropocene to the exit of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

Another study, published in the journal Earth’s Future (April 2016), by Professors Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology shows that the impact humans have made on Earth in terms of how we produce and consume resources has formed a ‘striking new pattern’ in the planet’s global energy flow.

The research suggests that the Earth is now characterized by a geologically unprecedented pattern of global energy flow that is pervasively influenced by humans – and which is necessary for maintaining the complexity of modern human societies.

While analysing the Anthropocene phenomenon – an epoch where humans dominate the Earth’s surface geology – the team identified that human patterns of production and consumption are a key factor characterizing the epoch, and when measured against the billion-year old patterns of planet Earth, they form a striking new pattern.

Professor Zalasiewicz said: “Very big changes in our planet’s pattern of biological production and consumption do not happen very often. The appearance of photosynthesis was one, about two and a half billion years ago. Then, a little over half a billion years ago, animals like trilobites appeared, to add scavengers and predators into a food web of increasing complexity.

“Other major events have happened since, such as five major mass extinctions, but even measured against these events, human-driven changes to production and consumption are distinctly new.”

Dr Carys Bennett, co-author on the study added: “It is without precedent to have a single species appropriating something like one quarter of the net primary biological production of the planet and to become effectively the top predator both on land and at sea.”

In addition, by digging phosphorus out of the ground and by fixing nitrogen out of the air to make fertilizers; and by exploiting hundreds of millions of years-worth of stored carbon-based energy in a still-accelerating trend, humans are increasing productivity well above natural levels – and directing much of it towards animals that have been re-engineered to suit our purposes.

This refashioning of the relationship between Earth’s production and consumption is leaving signals in strata now forming, and this helps characterize the Anthropocene as a geological time unit. It also has wider and more fundamental importance in signaling a new biological stage in this planet’s evolution.

Now we know why the second century Rabbis who made up the calendar Jews currently use, chose to begin that calendar with Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden i.e. the beginning of human civilization and the refashioning of the relationship between Earth’s production and consumption.

The word Adam in Hebrew means mankind/Homo Sapiens– the species. The exit of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden symbolizes the transition of humanity from a nomadic stone age society of hunter-gatherers, to a more advanced metal working, copper age, society of farmers and village dwellers.

By starting the Jewish calendar with a historical transition that would have a universal impact on all of human society, the second century rabbis followed the lead of the Torah which begins not with Judaism, but with the rise of the world’s earliest urban civilizations; the beginning of written history and the beginning of the Anthropocene Era.

But the greatest significance of the Torah’s statement that God blessed humanity: “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it” (Genesis 1:28) is that the fate of our whole planet has been given over to Humanity, and thus humans are responsible for restraining our own greed and self centeredness with Sabbath (and Shmita) like restrictions on human manipulations of nature for our own short term view connivence (Genesis 2:2-3).

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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