NEW PUBLIC OUTREACH OPPORTUNITIES AND STRATEGIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE GROWTH OF CONSERVATION PALEOBIOLOGY
Successful educational outreach in CPB is contingent upon facilitating understanding two essential and irreducible Earth system change concepts: “historical” and “future” thinking. 1) Historical thinking refers to the practice of incorporating historical events and processes across temporal scales in interpretation of why an ecosystem looks as it does (and did). 2) Future thinking is estimation of how current processes will be manifested in ecosystem changes decades, centuries, and millennia into the future. Effective communication of the central messages of CPB outreach rests on our ability to help people apply these concepts, including understanding of the fundamental principles of baseline and range of temporal variation, to future ecosystem scenarios.
Geohistorical data from the “familiar” past may align relatively easily with near-future planning. Geohistorical data from the distant past, however, though more challenging to comprehend, possess considerable potential to help the public envision alternative scenarios of the future that they cannot imagine from personal experience or human historical records. In other words, the relevancy of the distant past—particularly of environmental contexts of biotic response outside of our experience (but toward which we might be headed)—centers precisely on what may initially appear irrelevant to present-day conservation concerns.