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The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizationsby Brian Fagan
In this troubling but well-told tale, Fagan walks us through the history of world climate change — and how it has affected the rise and fall of civilizations. Perfect for fans of history and the environment alike.
Synopses & Reviews
How the earths previous global warming phase, from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries, reshaped human societies from the Arctic to the Sahara—a wide-ranging history with sobering lessons for our own time.
From the tenth to the fifteenth centuries the earth experienced a rise in surface temperature that changed climate worldwide—a preview of todays global warming. In some areas, including Western Europe, longer summers brought bountiful harvests and population growth that led to cultural flowering. In the Arctic, Inuit and Norse sailors made cultural connections across thousands of miles as they traded precious iron goods. Polynesian sailors, riding new wind patterns, were able to settle the remotest islands on earth. But in many parts of the world, the warm centuries brought drought and famine. Elaborate societies in western and central America collapsed, and the vast building complexes of Chaco Canyon and the Mayan Yucatan were left empty.
As he did in his bestselling The Little Ice Age, anthropologist and historian Brian Fagan reveals how subtle changes in the environment had far-reaching effects on human life, in a narrative that sweeps from the Arctic ice cap to the Sahara to the Indian Ocean. The history of the Great Warming of a half millennium ago suggests that we may yet be underestimating the power of climate change to disrupt our lives today—and our vulnerability to drought, writes Fagan, is the “silent elephant in the room.”
"Global warming is hardly new; in fact, the very long-term trend began about 12,000 years ago with the end of the Ice Age. Anthropologist Fagan (The Little Ice Age) focuses on the medieval warming period (ca. 800-1300), which helped Europe produce larger harvests; the surpluses helped fund the great cathedrals. But in many other parts of the world, says Fagan, changing water and air currents led to drought and malnutrition, for instance among the Native Americans of Northern California, whose key acorn harvests largely failed. Long-term drought contributed to the collapse of the Mayan civilization, and fluctuations in temperature contributed to, and inhibited, Mongol incursions into Europe. Fagan reveals how new research methods like ice borings, satellite observations and computer modeling have sharpened our understanding of meteorological trends in prehistorical times and preliterate cultures. Finally, he notes how times of intense, sustained global warming can have particularly dire consequences; for example, 'by 2025, an estimated 2.8 billion of us will live in areas with increasingly scarce water resources.' Looking backward, Fagan presents a well-documented warning to those who choose to look forward. Illus., maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Brian Fagan is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books on the interaction of climate and human society have established him as a leading authority on the subject; he lectures frequently around the world. He is the editor of The Oxford Companion to Archaeology and the author of Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World; The Little Ice Age; and The Long Summer, among many other titles.
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History and Social Science » Archaeology » General