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Paleoenvironment and archaeology provide cautionary tales for climate policymakers

Kaufman, B., Kelly, C. S. and Vachula, R. S. (2018) Paleoenvironment and archaeology provide cautionary tales for climate policymakers. Geographical Bulletin, 59 (1). pp. 5-24. ISSN 0731-3292

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Federal climate policy in the United States is still in its infancy and is in large part characterized by efforts to reach a consensus on the very existence and causality of climate change. This has stemmed from a sociopolitical rift within the country, with the objectivity and usefulness of science attacked by detractors. Scientists who are most qualified to defend their methods and provide information to policymakers rarely have an institutional incentive to share this knowledge, but should be encouraged to communicate their findings to the public, especially those who receive public funding. By not doing so, they are effectively 1) keeping data and their interpretations within the academy alone, despite their importance to the public welfare, 2) losing public support through inactivity, and 3) potentially harming the future availability of research support in what has rapidly become a politically polarized funding atmosphere. Archaeologists and geoscientists in particular, as repositories of past ecological knowledge established through one method (Western academic) of empirical examination, are well positioned to broadcast to the public a variety of societal responses to long-term environmental change as well as the repercussions of political reorganization in the wake of resource shortage-induced societal collapse. This paper summarizes a few promising public outreach engagements on environment and climate change, and suggests further venues for institutional change at the university level. As an example of how multi-causal socio-ecological processes can be concisely packaged for consumption by the public and policymakers without oversimplifying data, we present a synthesis of regional case studies from the New and Old Worlds. Case studies are connected through anthropological processes of cooperation versus exclusion, subsistence shifts, sociopolitical (re)organization and hierarchy, violence, and disease in a preliminary attempt a) to identify the emotional and anecdotal psychology of our own society when it comes to the changing global environment, b) to discuss the issue of scalar differences between ancient and modern ecology, and c) to call on academics to introspectively alter our own attitudes and systems of incentives at the university level. © 2018 by Gamma Theta Upsilon.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:90374
Publisher:Gamma Theta Upsilon

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