15 June 2023

Comment on the prevailing lack of interest in geology

For some reason, most educated people know a fair amount of geography, both human and even physical (such as, they know approximately where Tahiti and Madagascar are, for example). And a smattering of interest in where resources come from (oil, mining, etc.) isn't unusual. But interest in deep time, paleontology and historical geology, is actually pretty unusual. I find that it's a surprise to most people, for example, that over the course of the last 150 million years, North America, on the west, docked with a huge archipelago, much as Australia is now doing with Indonesia and New Guinea, and ended up incorporating it into its western margin. If the names Wrangellia, Siletzia, and the Insular and Intermontane superterranes sound like something out of a fantasy novel for you, you're missing out on one of the most interesting reorderings of scientific knowledge of the last 50 years, which basically explains why and how 1/3 of our country is mountains and where they came from. Other parts of the world have similar stories, of course, but you would think people would be a little more interested than they are in how our homeland came to be. The big picture, such as Central Washington University's Nick Zentner explains in a long series of YouTube lectures, is actually pretty easy to grasp, once you realize that there's actually quite a lot we know about this stuff, which was pretty much a complete mystery before the 1970s and the plate tectonic revolution. 

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