Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Great Warming (Book #51)

The Medieval Warm Period (~800-1300) isn't quite as well known as the Little Ice Age that immediately followed it (~1300-1850). But those who have heard of it typically view it from the European perspective as a Good Thing--a time of prosperity and population growth fed by bountiful crops. Beautiful cathedrals sprang up across the continent, wine grapes grew in England, and the Vikings settled Iceland and Greenland and explored the edges of North America.

The Great Warming (Brian Fagan, 2008) presents the European idyll (though not without reminding us that peasants still lived on the edge), but then goes on to prove that warmer temperatures were bad for almost everyone else, because for much of the world, more warmth means more drought. The Classical Maya and the Anasazi cultures both collapsed during this period, and many areas of Asia suffered famine, just to name a few examples. It got a little repetitive, but it's a sobering reminder that we have more to fear from global warming than a few feet of rising sea level.

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