Paleonet: Teaching: making paleo relevant

Roy Plotnick plotnick at
Sun Feb 3 21:31:44 UTC 2013

I focus on context; i.e., modern shifts have to be understood against the background of past shifts and changing boundary conditions.  One of the chief arguments of climate change deniers with geological training is that current changes are in the range of past natural variation, so humans are not the cause. For example, we had a speaker mention 1000 ppm atmospheric CO2 in this context, without also mentioning that this was the Ordovician!  

I also emphasize that global change is not just climate, but includes such things as land use change, changes in erosion rates, biodiversity loss,  and ocean acidification.  
- Roy
On Feb 3, 2013, at 2:15 PM, Thomas Hegna wrote:

> All,
>   To those of you who teach classes like Historical Geology, History of the Earth, and Paleontology: how do you make connections between events in the past (both in terms of mechanism and scale) and those we see today? I feel like thus far in my teaching I have kept these connections too general (sea-level rise, climate change, etc.) and not tied it down with meaningful specifics. How do others approach this?
> Best,
> Tom
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> Thomas A. Hegna
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> Western Illinois University
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Roy E. Plotnick
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois at Chicago
845 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60607
E-mail: plotnick at

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"The scientific celebrities, forgetting their molluscs and glacial periods, gossiped about art, while devoting themselves to oysters and ices
with characteristic energy.." -Little Women, Louisa  May Alcott

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