The activities of Stone Age farmers may have altered Earth's climate. This is the exciting but controversial theory conveyed by palaeoclimatologist William Ruddiman in his well-written book Plows, Plagues and Petroleum
. . . . [A]n excellent book summarizing and placing in context the age-old influence of humans on atmospheric composition, climate and global warming.
If you're not familiar with Ruddiman's hypothesis, you should be. . . . At a time when some scientist seem to fear that open criticism will give the public the impression that we disagree about the facts on climate change--that it is real, caused in part by humans, and increasingly unavoidable--it is good to read of Ruddiman's faith in the scientific method and his willingness to let the process unfold as it should. . . . Plows, Plagues and Petroleum
is excellent reading for scientist and nonscientist alike.
(James White Science
What William Ruddiman has done in Plows, Plagues and Petroleum
, an attractive, well-written new book aimed at a popular audience, is to explore the geochemical and climatological implications of worldwide deforestation over the past several thousand years. . . . Ruddiman's argument makes it clear that there is no 'natural' baseline of climate in the late Holocene from which to reckon the human impact of the past two centuries.
(Wolfgang H. Berger American Scientist
William Ruddiman's provocative but plausible conclusion is that the economic behavior of humans began to profoundly influence global climate roughly 8000 years ago. . . . Ruddiman's book has already begun to spark an important debate--a debate which economic historians should be eager to follow and join.
(Robert Whaples EH.net
This well-written book does a great job of summarizing complex topics through simple calculations and examples, and provides the right balance of cultural background and scientific data.
(Matthew S. Lachniet Geotimes
The book by Ruddiman is very enjoyable and easy to read. It also takes quite a unique perspective on the relationship between human societies and climate. For Ruddiman, rather than the climate being a determinant of the course of human events, the argument is turned on its head making human economic behavior a cause of climate change, even well into distant antiquity.
(Arlene Miller Rosen Nature and Culture
Ruddiman's short book is an excellent primer on the various influences on global climate. He explains scientific concepts clearly and accessibly, and his melding of climate science and human history is fascinating. For these reasons alone, the book is worth reading.
(Erik M. Conway Journal of the History of Biology
)Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum
is a primer on natural variations in Earth's climate and on how human activity is having even more of an impact. While some readers might find it disturbing that people have been influencing the planet's climate for millennia, others may be even more alarmed to think about climate changes yet to come.
(S. Perkins Science News
[Ruddiman] reviews the ongoing debate about future climate change and provides a balanced and judicious assessment of the challenges ahead. This book offers valuable new insights into one of the world's most demanding environmental challenges.
(Population and Development Review
The book is instructive and refreshingly non-technical in its prose. It also offers insight to historians as to how they might think about scientific and environmental processes . . . and draw on these materials to write history. . . . Given our contemporary industrial capacity, it rises some serious questions and concerns over the fragility of the physical environment and our relationship with it.
(Michael Egan Left History