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Social Science and Public Policy

CANCELLED: Paleo to the People: New data and novel questions challenge conventional historical narratives of past societies and climate

This event has been cancelled.

April 23, 2020 at 5:15pm6:15pm EDT

Eggers Hall, 010

This event has already occurred. The information may no longer be valid.

Paleo to the People: New data and novel questions challenge conventional historical narratives of past societies and climate. 
This will be the annual Meinig Undergraduate Lecture, with guest speaker Amy Hessl, Professor, Department of Geography at West Virginia University.
In the last few decades, paleoclimatology has made fundamental contributions to the study of past climate and has been instrumental in bench-marking anthropogenic climate change.  While paleoclimatology has long been applied to the study of complex societies, the emphasis has largely been focused on extreme climate and societal collapse, leaving many other possible responses and interactions of past societies to environmental extremes understudied.  Diverse historical narratives of socio-ecological change resonate with the public and expand the dialogue about climate change beyond environmental effects to social and cultural vulnerabilities and consequences. In this talk I explore two case studies that demonstrate how new questions and new data sources expand our understanding of past climate and society beyond collapse. First, I review work on how two Asian steppe empires, the Uyghur and the Mongol, survived, and in some instances thrived, under extreme drought and moisture anomalies. Second, I describe how a new paleoenvironmental data source – historic log buildings – allow us to evaluate the extent and ecological impact of land abandonment by Indigenous Peoples of eastern North America following European contact.  In both cases, paleo data challenge conventional historical wisdom and yield novel examples of socio-environmental interactions that can inform our current response to the climate crisis.

For more information, and for accessibility and accommodations requests, please contact Sarah Kondrk at or call the Geography office at 315.443.2605.
Sponsored by the Geography Department.

This event was first published on February 25, 2020 and last updated on March 23, 2020.

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