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The study of the past is of fundamental importance in understanding the processes that control the functioning of the Earth System and the interaction between ecosystems, human society and natural variability. The Quaternary scientist produces a variety of proxies derived from the investigation of natural, archaeological and historical records covering all time scales of the history of Planet Earth, including current dynamics, and with special focus to extend the calibrations to not instrumentally registered time spans. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted not only the vulnerability of our world but it also has made plain for all to see the critical role of humans. On the other hand, it has produced the unexpected conditions for a large-scale experiment on the impact of sudden reduced human activities, pointing to the potential for recovery of the natural environment. In this review, we examine how data from the recent past can provide tools to understand the events taking place today and to forecast their developments in the future.
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