Thursday, December 27, 2007


The Eremozoic Era

The Phanerozoic eon is divided into three eras, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. The suffix -zoic comes from Greek ζωϊκός (zōïkos = of or proper to animals), and the prefixes come from Greek φανερός (phaneros = visible), παλαιός (palaios = old), μέσος (mesos = middle), and καινός (kainos = new).

E.O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Knopf, 1998), p. 294, thinks we may be at the dawn of a new era, which he names after Greek ἐρῆμος (erēmos = desolate, uninhabited, lonely, solitary):
The ongoing loss of biodiversity is the greatest since the end of the Mesozoic Era sixty-five million years ago. At that time, by current scientific consensus, the impact of one or or more giant meteorites darkened the atmosphere, altered much of the Earth's climate, and extinguished the dinosaurs. Thus began the next stage of evolution, the Cenozoic Era or Age of Mammals. The extinction spasm we are now inflicting can be moderated if we so choose. Otherwise the next century will see the closing of the Cenozoic Era and a new one characterized not by new life forms but by biological impoverishment. It might appropriately be called the "Eremozoic Era," the Age of Loneliness.
Another English word derived from Greek erēmos is hermit.

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