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Palaeontology and the Environment
The post by David S. on some reflections on the relevance of dinosaur
extinctions to our current environmental situation may provide the basis
for an interesting string; What is the palaeontological communities
position on current environmental issues? This may be a little off of the
Dinosaur Only theme of the group, but it would be interesting to see how a
palaeontological perspective on such issues differs from that of the much
propergated ecological lines.
Overall, David is correct; the Earth can survive very well without humans,
has done so for most of its history and there is no reason not to believe
that life will continue on Earth until it is gobbled up by the sun some few
billion years from now. In this sense, a palaeontological perspective
offers an optomistic, longterm prognosis for life on Earth. But this cannot
be used to defend current environmental damage. Here we are talking about
the very real possibility of creating our own mass extinction including the
loss of our own species and many other species with us. That would surely
be the ultimate mark of incompetance for the first recognised 'intelligent'
organism in the history of the Earth.
I think that the science of palaeontology has an extremely important role
to play in the modern environmental debate and it is a role that we, as a
community, are sadly underplaying at the moment. We are the historians of
life. We can tell of previous disasters in the history of life with fair
comment on their causes and effects. Such histories are an important
demonstration of possible events in the future. Palaeontolgy provides a
unique and useful perspective on current events; we just need to get out
there and sell that message.
OK guys, am I peeing in the wind here or what?
Five points to all readers who realised that there is no such thing as a
phacoptid trilobite. Loose the five marks if you didn't make the logical
connection and tried to see the image anyway.