Friday, September 8, 2023

Making North America

Paleontologist Kirk Johnson certainly landed a trip of a lifetime with this series. I'm completely jealous. But he knew his way around these locations and had a compelling story to tell, so he was more deserving. We get the plate tectonics of how North America came to be, the genesis of life on the continent, and how humans made their way here from Africa, at least to the best of our understanding in 2015. 

Among other things, I learned that camels originated in North America. The continents of Laramidia and Appalachia are name checked, but for some reason, the Niobraran Sea is not.

My consolation prize is that I used my own photographs for the cover art on all episode question sets and the series bundle.

Host Kirk Johnson explores how the continent was shaped—and how it shaped us. Mighty, elemental forces molded North America—fiery eruptions, titanic floods, the grinding of great ice sheets, and massive impacts from space all shaped our homeland. The epic three-part series unfolds in a forgotten world that existed long before our own, crossed by long-lost mountain ranges, deserts the size of Africa, and vast inland seas spanning the length of the continent. Explore beloved landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls from the inside out as we witness the clash of nature’s creative and destructive forces. Hosted by renowned paleontologist Kirk Johnson, this spectacular road trip through a tumultuous deep past explores three fundamental questions: How was the continent built? How did life evolve here? And how has the continent shaped us? “Making North America” reveals the incredible story of a majestic continent.

1. Origins. The epic 3 billion-year story of how our continent came to be. From the palm trees that once flourished in Alaska to titanic eruptions that nearly tore the Midwest in two, discover how forces of almost unimaginable power gave birth to North America.

2. Life. How did life emerge on our primeval continent? Why was North America home to so many iconic dinosaurs like T. rex? And how did a huge sea filled with giant marine reptiles end up covering Kansas? We tell the surprising intertwined story of life and the landscape in North America.

3. Human. Explore the intimate connections between the landscape, the colonizing of the continent, and the emergence of our industrial world. Beginning with Native American ancestors who crafted hunting weapons from stone traded across hundreds of miles, the program shows how pre-Columbian civilizations developed an expert knowledge of the landscape and its resources. With the arrival of Europeans, North America’s hidden riches became to key to prosperity, from the gold rush to today’s oil and gas boom. As a result, human activity has transformed the continent on a scale that rivals the geological forces that gave birth to it billions of years before. Yet, scientists warn of sleeping giants like the Cascadia fault, and the earthquake/tsunami one-two punch it could unleash on the Pacific Northwest. Even as we re-mold the continent to suit our needs, geologic processes inexorably continue, and they raise potential risks of catastrophe to our human civilization.

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