450px-Well_Head_where_fluids_are_injected_into_the_ground

Oil rig

What makes the oil rig an Anthropocene artefact is that the oil rig can be a link to the geological layers of the Earth and the drilling rig is a machine that creates holes in the earths sub-surface. It can be used to drill water wells, oil wells etc. First humans used the rig to suck oil out of the Earth and now we are trying to pump different stuff back in the soil again to compensate for the damage we have caused. The Anthropocene suggests that humans have affected the Earth to the extent that a new epoch had to be named and the oil rig certainly shows how humans have affected the Earth and the environment.

The American petroleum industry began with Edwin Drake’s discovery of oil in 1859 and from there on the oil industry grew larger. There was a demand for kerosene and oil lamps which by the early part of the 20th century had become a national concern. This demand for oil shows how the Anthropocene had become more apparent through the continued exploitation of the Earth’s resources. (rigsinternational.com) Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer wrote that mankind’s exploitation of Earth’s resources has been astounding:

“In a few generations mankind is exhausting the fossil fuels that were generated over several hundred million years. The release of SO2, globally about 160 Tg/year to the atmosphere by coal and oil burning, is at least two times larger than the sum of all natural emissions. […] 30-50% of the land surface has been transformed by human action; more nitrogen is now fixed synthetically and applied as fertilizers in agriculture than fixed naturally in all terrestrial ecosystems.” (Crutzen & Stoermer, The ‘Anthropocene, 17)

The artefact teaches us that the Anthropocene is an epoch dominated by humans and that during the Anthropocene there have been new mechanical and technological advances which have allowed humans to exploit the Earth more than they perhaps did during the Holocene. Oil rigs also allowed humans to drill further down the Earth’s surface and modern oil rigs can achieve lengths of over 12.000 meters. (rigsinternational.com)

The oil rig certainly is part of the Anthropocene – the age of man, the oil rig can be viewed as one tool that is being used by humans to alter the Earth. Authors Emma Marris, Peter Kareiva, Joseph Mascaro and Erle C.Ellis writes that since humanity started altering the Earth the oceans have become acidified and with the use of fossil fuels we have changed the global climate. They continue with saying that humans have built so many dams that half of the world’s rivers flow is regulated, stored or impeded by human-made structures. The oil rig is part of that human-made structure that regulates the land and seas in trying to find where oil is imbedded. (Marris, Karieva, Mascaro & Ellis, Hope in the Age of Man)

Further reading:
http://www.rigsinternational.com/our-offer/history-of-drilling/
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/opinion/the-age-of-man-is-not-a-disaster.html?_r=0
Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, The “Anthropocene”.

Therese Karlsson

Hi, my name is Therese and I am 23 years old. I have been studying history of science and ideas for a few years now and I am taking this course as a part of my Master Course.