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5.0 von 5 Sternen It's all about rain . . . or lack of it, 1. Juni 2008
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
Climate change is a regular item in the news. Most articles and books look at the future - few address the past. While the human condition is a large consideration, real effects are not often dwelt on. Brian Fagan makes up for both these lacks in this finely researched and comprehensive study. In a framework centred on a millennium in the past, he takes us on a global tour of what is known as The Medieval Warm Period. Lasting for half a millennium, about 850 C.E. to 1300 C.E, Fagan shows us the importance of understanding the global nature of climate and its interconnected elements.

In Europe, the era was later named the High Middle Ages. Flourishing trade, wine grown in the British Isles and shipped to France [!] and the mighty cathedrals erected typified the period. Elsewhere, conditions weren't as salubrious. In the North American Southwest, drought brought to a close the civilisation of Chaco Canyon and toppled the great Mayan Empire. In Asia, the great Ankor Wat, built to symbolise a vast and rich realm, was abandoned to the jungle. China's peasant population, always at the edge of survival, was driven from their lands in many places by alternating extended droughts and torrential rainfalls stripping the soil. Even the Mongol Horde was prompted to move in what proved nearly catastrophic for Europe, driven by the need for grazing lands.

Enduring climate change has been a human consideration from the beginning. Even our evolutionary roots lie in the drying of Africa and the subsequent emergence of the savannah. In one sense, climate is what brought us the role of the one bipedal ape. The development of agriculture made us yet more vulnerable to shifts in climate, Fagan reminds us. Dependence on rainfall is the foundation of raising crops, alleviated only a little by irrigation canals. Irrigated farming plays a major role in this book, with the South American and other civilisations struggling with problems of water management. Those lacking such amenities, such as California Indians, suffered drastically when the severest droughts in thousands of years killed off natural food supplies.

Fagan's talent as a writer is equalled by his feeling for the human condition. In each region he describes, it's more than weather changes that he's concerned with. It's what that meant to the local population and how it reacted. The author uses a deft ploy to capture the reader's interest at the beginning of each section. He sets up a local scene with imaginary, but carefully defined, participants. The situation reflects the weather and social conditions, indicating how those interact to produce behaviours and adjustments.

At first glance, this book may seem merely a "history" with little meaning for today's conditions or those of the future. However, it is far from that - being instead a diagnosis for what is to come. Fagan concludes by reminding us of past population dislocations resulting from the great droughts. That pressure is certain to emerge again, and he asks how ready we are to deal with it. Although climate change is "normal", as the events of the Medieval Warm Period demonstrate, the population today is vastly larger than it was then. With the human contribution to warming accelerating the process, it will be billions of people affected by what is to come. In the earlier time, some people, such as the Chaco Canyon residents, had the ability to adjust, our capacity to follow their example is curtailed by our high density centres. This book is an overdue warning of what we, or our grandchildren, will be facing. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations
The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations von Brian M. Fagan (Taschenbuch - 3. März 2009)
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