Rêve Géologique

Simona Ghizzoni

2019 - Ongoing

Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town on Monday.

( Damian Carrington | The Guardian | August 29, 2016 )

—-The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.—-

As the traces of our passage on earth become more and more evident, I am increasingly obsessed with erasing mine.

Rêve Géologique is a collection - reconstruction of the scientific evidence from the beginning of this new era.

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  • "Dinosaur eggs"

    Last December ( 2016, ed. ) Nicholas Cage handed over to the US authorities the skull of a tarosaurus, purchased for $276,000 from a gallery in Beverly Hills, so that it could be returned to its homeland: Mongolia. The case has uncovered Pandora's box of illegal trade in fossils, sold by the thousands, for millions of dollars, on the international black market and in famous auction houses such as Christie's, before everyone's eyes.
    A flourishing black market that damages the study of dinosaurs, a fundamental discipline to know much of the evolution of our past, from the life of dinosaurs to climate change. "Every year - remembers National Geographic - scientists from all over the world manage to recover about 90 tons of fossils from Mongolia. But the phenomenon of smuggling is constantly growing and collects funding for at least 10 million dollars a year. A system that moves in full illegality and finally rose to the headlines only when it saw Hollywood stars compete for fossils at auction.
    ( Source: National Geographic )

    Rome, 2019.

  • Self-portrait #1
    Rome, 2019

  • Anti landslide steel wire net.

    A study, published in the magazine "American Mineralogist", has recorded for the first time the minerals that have formed directly or indirectly as a result of human activities: they are 208, a real "explosion", according to experts.
    Analyzing 5208 minerals present on our planet, the team of researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science concluded that 208 of these would not exist if it had not been for the presence of the human being. After the so-called "Great Oxidation", i.e. the increase in atmospheric oxygen that occurred 2.2 billion years ago and that gave rise to about two thirds of known minerals, man represents the main factor of diversification and distribution of minerals on Earth.

    Most of the minerals "dependent" on man have been formed as a result of fires or the leaching of waste produced by mining activities: they are found in foundries, in deposits, in the walls of underground tunnels or in piping systems. Some have also been created directly by man, such as YAG crystals, made from yttrium and aluminium, or silicon chips used as semiconductors.

    (Source: Huffington Post)
    Reggio Emilia, 2019.

  • White Stork.

    By 2050, almost 80% of migratory bird species could be affected by environmental changes due to global warming. According to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, global climate change, pollution and land use pose a danger to most migratory birds.
    The international researchers who wrote the study focused their attention on the species that nest north of the Tropic of Cancer and that cover long distances to winter (from 1,100 to 13,500 kilometers): cranes, swallows, coots, nightingales, hawks, geese, a total of 825 species.
    "The longer the migration, the greater the risk of damage or loss", explains Wilfried Thuiller, co-author of the study. Birds get more tired, exposing themselves to hunters and poachers. And if, due to unpredictable climatic conditions, they arrive too early or too late at the nesting grounds, there is a risk of desynchronisation between reproduction and peak feeding. Unfortunately, the decline in migration is already visible, with a significant decrease in the population of some species. Other birds, however, seem to have found a way to adapt to the situation: this is the case of the white storks, who now willingly abandon the winter districts south of the Sahara in favor of the Iberian districts. And thanks to the food found in the landfills, their population is even increasing.

    ( Source: Nature Climate Change Journal )
    London, 2014.

  • Salse.

    The phenomenon of the " Salse " is characterized by the ascent to the surface of salt water, mud and gaseous hydrocarbons compressed under a cape of clay. The name " Salsa " derives precisely from the high content of salt in fossil waters, the same waters of the sea that about a million years ago occupied the Po Valley during EOCENE.
    (54.8-33.7 Ma)
    During this period, the present great mountain ranges were formed, such as the Cordillera, the Alps, the and the Himalayas. The climate reached the peak of the Palaeocene-Eocene temperature, which gave start to this era. The heating lasted about one hundred thousand years. The sudden increase in temperatures caused a severe mass extinction which differentiated the fauna of the Eocene from that of the previous Paleocene.

    The " Salse " has been known since ancient times, so much so that Pliny the Elder had already observed and described it in his Natural History.

    Regnano, Italy. 2019

  • Ground water source.

    As the world's largest distributed store of fresh water, ground water plays a central part in sustaining ecosystems and enabling human adaptation to climate variability and change. The strategic importance of ground water for global water and food security will probably intensify under climate change as more frequent and intense climate extremes (droughts and floods) increase variability in precipitation, soil moisture and surface water.
    Mark Cuthber, a researcher at the Welsh University of Cardiff, states "Our research shows that groundwater systems take much longer to respond to climate change than surface waters, with only half of the world's groundwater flows responding fully within human terms of 100 years.
    This means that in many parts of the world changes in groundwater flows due to climate change could have a very long legacy, which could be described as an environmental time bombardment because any impact of climate change on recharge only affects the base flow to rivers and wetlands long afterwards".

    (Source:Nature Climate Change Journal )
    Lille, France, 2019.

  • Self-portrait #2
    Rome, 2019

  • Asphalt.

    In Europe, there is cement or asphalt less than 1.5 kilometres from anywhere.
    Every year, 1,600 million tons of asphalt, 3,400 billion tons of cement are produced and sediments equal to 3 times those transported naturally by rivers and streams are moved. Roads and buildings, intact or reduced to rubble, will therefore constitute one of the most lasting geological evidence of Anthropocene.

    ( Source: Museo di Paleontologia di Torino )
    Roma, 2019.

  • Algae.

    Nitrates are substances composed of nitrogen and oxygen: they represent a significant component of diffuse pollution, which affects inland and marine waters, giving rise to the phenomenon of eutrophication. "Eutrophication is an enrichment of water in nutritive salts that causes structural changes to the ecosystem such as: increased production of algae and aquatic plants, depletion of fish species, the general degradation of water quality and other effects that reduce and preclude its use. ( OCSE)
    The problem of nitrates arises mainly from the application of organic and chemical fertilizers on cultivated land. The high solubility of this form of nitrogen means that it can be easily found in both surface and groundwater.

    Rieti, Italy, 2019.

  • Aquarium.

    According to a FAO study, the impact of temperature, wind and sea acidification on marine and aquatic systems can already be predicted with a large margin of safety.
    Within a few years, rising temperatures will have an impact on fish physiology due to reduced oxygen transport to tissues at higher temperatures. This in turn will lead to changes in the distribution of both marine and freshwater species. As temperatures rise, fish populations will increase towards the poles and decline in the southernmost distribution areas.
    About 520 million people depend on fishing and aquaculture as their primary livelihood. For 400 million of them, among the poorest in the world, fish accounts for more than half of animal protein and mineral inputs.

    Many coastal communities already live in precarious conditions due to poverty and rural underdevelopment, with livelihoods at risk due to overexploitation of marine resources and degradation of ecosystems.

    A crucial question will be, according to the report, how well these communities can adapt to change.

    ( Source: FAO Climate change implications for fisheries and aquaculture )

    Istanbul, 2014.

  • Self-portrait #3
    Rome, 2019

  • The white whale.

    The area around Mount Amiata ( which is a volcano, whose last eruption dates back to about 180,000 years ago) is one of the most active in Italy from a geothermal point of view: every day the territory between the area of Bagni San Filippo and Pietrineri (another fraction of the municipality of Castiglione d'Orcia) emits from 50 to 100 tons of CO₂ (carbon dioxide), which makes this area one of the largest in Italy for the total emission of this gas.

    When waters so rich in CO₂ rise from the bottom - as in the area of Bagni San Filippo - and reach the surface, there is the degassing of carbon dioxide, which goes to rebalance with atmospheric pressure, thus favoring the precipitation and deposition of travertine, which is nothing more than calcium carbonate (or more prosaically 'limestone', as the one that you remove from the bath thanks to the Viakal) that was previously dissolved in the water thanks to the high content of carbon dioxide.

    The degassing and deposition process generally takes place near the source and is favoured by the presence of waterfalls and small waterfalls, where stripping (i.e. the transfer into the atmosphere of the CO₂ dissolved in solution) is more efficient.

    Et voilà, this is how the enormous deposits of white travertine that we can admire today have formed over the millennia, obviously including the grandiose 'white whale'.

    ( Source: https://treeaveller.it )

  • Elephant.

    At the beginning of 1800 the population of African elephants was estimated at 20 million specimens. Today only 350,000 elephants survive, destined for extinction if their massacre continues at the rate of 30,000 heads per year. For some time we have known almost everything about their ecological role, but only this year, for the first time, a research group from the University of Saint Louis has tried to calculate what the impact on the world climate would be if the Loxodonta africana disappeared from the face of the earth.
    The elephant grazes bushes and plants, with a strong preference for fast-growing ones, which are eaten and even trampled underfoot during meals; this frees the soil for other, slower-growing plants.
    Less elephants means less trees.
    Thanks to their selection work, elephants have, over millennia, contributed to populating African forests with centuries-old trees, with an extraordinary capacity to accumulate carbon: simply by feeding, African elephants help to keep the atmosphere clean - a job, according to the team led by Fabio Berzaghi, which equates to something like 43 billion dollars in works and investments, for man.

    ( Source: St. Louis University )
    Rome, 2019.

  • Self-portrait #4
    Rome, 2019

  • Walrus.

    The walrus (Odobenus rosmarus Linnaeus, 1758) is a large pinniped marine mammal with discontinuous distribution in the Arctic Ocean and the subarctic seas of the northern hemisphere. It is the only living species of the family of the Odobenids (Odobenidae Allen, 1880) and of the genus Odobenus Brisson, 1762. Walrus has played an important role in the culture of many native Arctic peoples, who hunted it for meat, fat, skin, fangs and bones. It is a gregarious animal that lives quite a long time and is considered a key species of the Arctic marine ecosystem. Conservation status: vulnerable.

    Throughout the Arctic, sea ice is forming later in the season and disappearing earlier, limiting the amount of space available for walruses to congregate. Floating summer sea ice is also receding further north to where the water is too deep for the animals to dive and feed. This forces them to desert the ice and seek refuge ashore. Once on land, the walruses must travel much longer distances—up to 250 miles round trip—to reach their food supply.

    Researchers first observed large haulouts off Alaska’s Point Lay in 2007, when summer Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest minimum extent in recorded history. As the extent of summer sea ice has continued to decline in Arctic waters, the number of walruses coming ashore has grown considerably.

    (source: Wikipedia, WWF )

    Coney Island - 2014

  • Self-portrait #5
    Rome, 2017

  • Chicken bones.

    An article published this week in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science suggests that farmed chicken can be considered as one of the main identifying traits of anthropocene. The study, led by Leicester University biologist Carys E. Bennett, suggests that one of the most important and concrete legacies we will pass on to the geologists of the future will be the bones of the billions of chickens we slaughter each year, different from all the chickens that have ever lived on earth before about sixty years ago.
    According to Bennett and his colleagues, we should focus on breeding chickens. At any given time, there are about 23 billion chickens on Earth, ten times more than any other bird, and with a greater total mass than any other bird on the planet. About 60 billion birds are slaughtered every year.
    Even more than their quantity, it is their quality that makes them potentially an unmistakable sign of our geological era, according to Bennett. If man has been raising chickens for about 8,000 years, when they spread from Southeast Asia all over the world, in the last sixty years they have become something else. Until the beginning of the 20th century, chickens were reared mainly for eggs, and were only slaughtered on special occasions. Things changed in the 1920s, when chickens were reared indoors all year round. But the real revolution came with the technological growth of the second post-war period, which introduced new and efficient methods to artificially incubate eggs, to increase the chances of survival of chickens with drugs and antibiotics, and to raise and slaughter them in huge quantities in limited covered spaces. According to an estimate of UK chicken consumption, one million chickens were eaten in 1950: 150 million in 1965.

    ( Source: University of Leicester )
    Rome, 2019

  • A concrete bridge.

    Cement is the second most used substance on Earth after water. Buildings, bridges, roads, dams: everywhere in the world the infrastructure is closely dependent on this material.
    The world cement industry pollutes more than entire nations such as China and the United States, with about 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in one year (the figure refers to 2015), accounting for 8% of total emissions.
    It is very difficult to reduce the environmental impact of cement, for a number of reasons.
    First of all, about half of the emissions come from the chemical reaction (calcination) necessary to manufacture the clinker, one of its main components; consequently, the only way to reduce these "process" emissions is to replace at least in part the clinker with different "ingredients".
    Cement is then mixed with water, sand and gravel to make concrete, the most widely used construction material in the world (over 10 billion tonnes per year).
    And with the expected boom in construction in the coming years, linked to the expansion of urban areas in many countries, especially in Asia, cement production is expected to increase by 25% in 2030 compared to today's levels, thus rising from 4 to 5 billion tons / year.

    ( VV Sources )
    Reggio Emilia, 2019.


    According to the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), a team of 34 scientists chaired by Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester, anthropocene began in the 1950s when humans began to irrevocably damage the planet.
    The "markers" of the beginning of a new geological era around the second half of the twentieth century are many but several scientists propose as a tangible and devastating sign of human activity on the environment the tests with hydrogen bombs of the '50s that have produced huge amounts of radioactive material.

    Sedan Crater is the result of the Sedan nuclear test and is located within the Nevada Test Site, 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Groom Lake, Nevada (Area 51).
    The nuclear device buried 635 ft under the ground displaced 11,000,000 tons of soil, leaving a crater 320 ft. deep and with a diameter of 1280 ft. It is the largest depression caused by a nuclear detonation. Over 10,000 people visit the crater every year. The test took place on July 6, 1962 and resulted in large amounts of radioactive fallout. The negative effects and health concerns apart, it remains a sight to behold.

    ( Source: Forbes, Online Nevada )
    Rome, 2019.

  • Self-portrait #6
    Roeggio Emilia, 2009