Synopses & Reviews
The Winds of Change
places the horrifying carnage unleashed on New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama by Hurricane Katrina in context.
Climate has been humanity's constant, if moody, companion. At times benefactor or tormentor, climate nurtured the first stirrings of civilization and then repeatedly visited ruin on empires and peoples. Eugene Linden reveals a recurring pattern in which civilizations become prosperous and complacent during good weather, only to collapse when climate changes either through its direct effects, such as floods or drought, or indirect consequences, such as disease, blight, and civil disorder.
The science of climate change is still young, and the interactions of climate with other historical forces are much debated, but the evidence mounts thatclimate loomed over the fate of societies from arctic Greenland to the Fertile Crescent and from the lost cities of the Mayans in Central America to the rain forests of Central Africa. Taking into account the uncertainties in both science and the historical record, Linden explores the evidence indicating that climate has been a serial killer of civilizations. The Winds of Change looks at the present and then to the future to determine whether the accused killer is on the prowl, and what it will do in the future.
The tragedy of New Orleans is but the latest instance in which a region prepared for weather disasters experienced in the past finds itself helpless when nature ups the ante. In the closing chapters, Linden explores why warnings about the dangers of climate change have gone unheeded and what is happening with climate today, and he offers perhaps the most explicit look yet at what a haywire climate might do to us. He shows how even a society prepared to absorb such threshold-crossing events as Katrina, the killer heat wave in Europe in 2003, or the floods in the American Midwest in the 1990s can spiral into precipitous decline should such events intensify and become more frequent.
The Winds of Change places climate change, global warming, and the resulting instability in historical context and sounds an urgent warning for the future.
"Linden, who has been writing about the environment for 20 years (The Future in Plain Sight), is angry that, despite compelling scientific consensus, American politicians aren't facing up to the climate change that is upon us, and he's frustrated that the public isn't forcing them to do so. Such slowpoke acceptance of an inevitability, Linden argues in this articulate polemic, is rooted in the fact that 'it has been our good fortune to prosper...during one of the most benign climate periods' but one that, if past worldwide weather cycles do portend the future, is fast coming to an end, with severe cultural and political consequences. Linden draws his conclusion from millennia of historical evidence, including the relatively recent Little Ice Age, starting in the 14th century, that wiped out Norse settlers in Greenland; more recently, a fierce El Niño in 18761878 precipitated droughts that killed millions, and another in 19971998 the most powerful ever recorded and a 'taste of things to come' cost the world economy $100 billion. Several chapters explaining the science of climate change will be hard going for lay readers, but the author's passion for the world to comprehend a coming catastrophe helps propel his alarming narrative. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Hurricanes, floods, droughts, melting ice caps Nature's serving them up at what seems like an ever-increasing clip. Which makes this compelling account of the weather's impact on civilization the book of the moment for all of us. Eugene Linden elegantly weaves history, science, and narrative into a must-read tale of the earth's most powerful forces." Susan Casey, author of The Devil's Teeth
"The Winds of Change is fascinating a tour de force. Linden has accumulated a greater comprehension of paleo-climatic and oceanographic issues than all but a very few scientists. I have nothing but admiration for this book, which is just what we need right now." George Woodwell, founder of the Woods Hole Research Center and former president of the Ecological Society of America
"Relatively restrained in tone, and consequently more persuasive by its sobriety, Linden's presentation of scientists' theories on historical climate change will provoke readers concerned about the implications of global warming for modern civilization." Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"[T]his text provides asound orientation to a controversial subject." Kirkus Reviews
"...Linden is a good, direct, easy-to-follow writer, and the message of his book couldn't be plainer, or more unsettling." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
About the Author
Eugene Linden is the author of seven books and for many years wrote about global environmental issues for Time. He has contributed to the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Fortune, and Slate. Linden has won numerous journalistic awards, including the American Geophysical Union's Walter Sullivan Award. He was named by Yale University in 2001 as a Poynter Fellow in honor of his work in environmental journalism. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
1. A Matter of Emphasis
2. The Deep Past: Climate as Creator
4. The First Victim
5. Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Disease, Migration, Conflict, and Famine
6. Empty Promises of Water:
The Collapse of the Mayans
7. The Little Ice Age:
Five Hundred Years of Climate Chaos
8. Climate Comes into Focus
9. The Gears of Global Climate
10. Proxy Wars I: Ice
11. Proxy Wars II: Mud
Cross-Examination and Redirect
12. The Mystery of Tell Leilan
13. Scorched Earth
14. Is It Little Ice Age, or Ages?
El Niño: The Killer Next Door
15. El Niño: How It Works
16. El Niño Meets Empire
17. A Taste of Things to Come?
The Elephant in the Room
18. The Tides of Public Opinion
19. Water Moving Through Water
Closing Arguments: Are We Next?
20. Going Forward
The Accelerating Pace of Climate Change and Scientific Discovery