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GY100: In Extinction's Embrace: A Geological Standpoint on Climate Nonfiction

Global Change is a signature of our times, but oftentimes the rates and extent of the Earth’s 21st century transformations are too intimidating to grasp. This Studies in Geology course turns to the geological record to put things in perspective. Close reading of such nonfiction works such as The Sixth Extinction, by E. Kolbert, The Rocks Don’t Lie, by D. Montgomery, and This Changes Everything, by N. Klein, provide a platform for excursions into the Geological Time Scale, exploration of varied paleoenvironments, and understanding of Earth’s response to rapid­change events, as recorded in the rocks. As extreme as the contemporary changes are ­­ in biodiversity, land disruption, freshwater supply, disparity in human living conditions, climate — there is some reassurance (geologically speaking) that comparable or yet more dire conditions have affected Earth in the past. In addition to books, new journal articles are used to stay abreast of discussions on the Anthropocene and the inventory of its consequences; the inventory is known as The Great Acceleration. As devastating and immutable as catastrophic events may be, there is abundant evidence that opportunity follows the devastation, and that guidance may be provided by Planetary Boundaries.