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Hardcover The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations Book

ISBN: 1596913924

ISBN13: 9781596913929

The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

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Book Overview

How the earth's 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 today's global warming. In some areas, including Western Europe, longer summers brought...

Customer Reviews

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Takes an anthropologist's approach to climate change

Climate change is nothing new. One thousand years ago, it changed the face of human life on earth. "The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations" is a look at the great warming, a time from between 1000 and 1500 AD where the world as a whole seems to shift to a warmer temperature, and how human society all over the planet changed due to a climate shift that humanity didn't even realize was there. "The Great Warming" takes an anthropologist's approach to climate change, and brings an intriguing side to the debate.

The Great Warming

From about 20,000 B.C. to modern times, this book spans most of human history and development. Very easy to read with very accessible science and archaeology. This book explains the effects of climate change on human development (both achievements and catastrophe). History has a way of repeating itself. While small scale farming communities can easily adapt to severe climatic events large, complex societies will usually collapse in face of these events. The reason for this collapse, whether Old Kingdom Egypt or Tiwanaku in Bolivia, is because these large complex societies, which have large populations, are completely depended on complex agricultural technologies, these technologies completely depend on water. Once the water is gone, say by extreme drought, the society is too overly complex to successfully adapt and inevitably falls. This is a cautionary tale for our current global warming crisis, how will our globalized society react to extreme climate change? I thought one of the most interesting parts was the effect the Younger Dryas Event (a 1000 year drought from 11,000 to 10,000 B.C.) had on the development of the first agriculture in the Near East. Although I would have enjoyed a chapter on the effects of climate change on Chinese civilization. I found this book fascinating, a must read.

Drought: The silent elephant in the global warming greenhouse

Brian Fagan does an excellent job, with the knowledge we have today, of illustrating what lights paleoclimatology may be able to shine on today's global warming, with sufficient warnings for the humans that are causing it. Specifically, the flight to the Sunbelt, especially the Desert Southwest, with its low-density sprawl and little mass transit, on the one hand, and demand for air conditioning, on the other, continuing to fuel anthropogenic global warming, Fagan would be excused if he didn't serve up a whole plateful of Schadenfreude crow for the largely conservative denizens of this part of the U.S. to digest. He didn't, but he could. Why? Based on paleoclimatology, it appears likely that this part of the country will experience the same long-term drought that wracked the Anasazi at Chaco Canyon, then later at Mesa Verde. Of course, the nearly 20 million of Southern California's Southland, the almost 5 million of the blot called Phoenix and the moving toward 1.5 million inexplicably in the Las Vegas area are a lot more thirsty for water than the Anasazi were. But, move beyond the U.S. The droughts of sub-Saharan Africa that started in the early 1980s are also likely to get worse in the 21st century. So, too, are problems in China, especially north China. Beyond this, Fagan documents the variety of ways in which civilizations of this time, from 900-1300 AD or so, called the Medieval Warm Period by British paleoclimatology pioneer Hubert Lamb, tried to deal with climate change of their era, or fell apart when they were able to deal no longer. With excellent explanatory sidebars on climatic patterns, chapter-by-chapter maps of civilizations under discussion and more, Fagan details the power of climatic change, with a sobering bit of reality for our times.

It's all about rain . . . or lack of it

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 pres

Global Climate Change In Historical Perspective

Most people who have heard the term "Medieval Warming Period" tend to think of it as a period of good weather in Western Europe which led to population growth, the construction of Gothic Cathedrals, and the beginning of the rise of centralized nation-states. Brian Fagan, in another work as intriguing as his earlier "The Little Ice Age, "The Long Summer," and "Floods, Famines, and Emperors," now examines the world wide evidence that this particular warming period not only affected Western Europe but Asia, Africa, Polynesia, and the Americas as well. I find Fagan's work fascinating on many levels. His clear, succinct explanations of the science behind tree ring, glacial ice core, and sedimentation analyses are approachable but not insultingly simple for non-scientists. His ability to draw parallels is impressive, helping us to recognize that what benefited or at least did not harm one culture was damaging or even catastrophic to others. This is quite important when we study the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, which can cause simultaneous floods in the Americas and droughts in India. I especially like his short vignettes of life in various cultures during the Warming Period, which place the climate changes they had to deal with in human context. This is an important book which helps us better understand the role climate change has played in the past and its potential role in our own future.
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