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By Stager C.

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Claiming that humans will not exist in the deep future can also be a cop-out. Eliminating a long-term future makes it easier to ignore the immense longevity of our carbon pollution and pretend that nobody will have to deal with the environmental changes that we're setting in motion today. But there's no way out from under this yoke of responsibility, because humankind is really not going anywhere. The lifestyle decisions that we make today will affect many generations to come, and the least we can do on their behalf is to acknowledge that fact.

Geochemical record from laminated cave formations show that stronger regional rains of the time opened a corridor to the rest of the world for some of our ancestors by making a trek across the Sinai and Negev deserts more of a hunting trip than a waterless death march. Climate change closed that door, too, at the end of the Eemian when the return of cold climates shut the Middle Eastern rains down. The early emigrants vanished from historical view then, perhaps by returning to Africa or by dying out.

Mammoths and their kind are sometimes called "ice age mammals," but they actually lived in much of North America and Eurasia during interglacials, too. Such cold-tolerant beasts merely retreated into shrunken remnants of their favored habitats when it warmed, and many of them lived through the Eemian successfully enough to become familiar to us thousands of years later—polar bears, various ice seals, and Arctic foxes among them. To record most of the major changes in species over the last few hundred thousand years at a single fossil site is to watch climatic shifts of the past drive animal and plant communities in and out of the area, with more dramatic effect than the push of genetic evolution.

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