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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, epic overview of climate and human history
_The Long Summer_ by Brian Fagan is in essence a follow up of his excellent earlier work, _The Little Ice Age_, a book that explored the effect of a particular climatic episode on European civilization between the years 1300 and 1850. Fagan expanded his focus greatly in _The Long Summer_ as in this work he analyzed the effects of various climatic events since 18,000 B.C...
Published on May 16, 2005 by Tim F. Martin

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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Many Errors!
Fagan grew careless in checking over his manuscript. Where I possess some expertise I caught numerous errors, and therefore don't trust any of the information in this book, although I found the subject interesting and worthy of a good popular treatment.
The author treated the Medieval era sloppily. Druids did not "compete" with Christianity through the...
Published on July 8, 2004 by Jenny Hanniver


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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Even more errors., August 4, 2012
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This review is from: The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Paperback)
Problems with the maps have been noted in other reviews (Western Brazil becomming Bolivia, Columbia becomming Ecuador) but what I most enjoyed was Newfoundland located on the same level as Gibralter, certainly an issue if one is trying to understand climate. I also found it fascinating that early farmers could travel "down the Rhine into Poland and finally into southern Belgium". Rivers migrate, even the Rhine, but into Poland?
Discussing milk production as a basis of early agricultural economy (9000 BC) is problematic, as research indicates that lactose tolerance past about four years of age is an adaptation that first appeared around 6000 years ago. Confusing so many "square meters" with so many "meters square" also becomes an issue; the author identifies a decent sized village as being about the size of a modern 4-bedroom house. Doubtless somewhat crowded. Breezing by the possibility of paleo Indians being the driver of large animal extinction in the Americas seems somewhat flip, as does the assumption of a 10-mile per year maximum diffusion rate into the wilderness. How about, say, the hunting band that follows the mammoth (or whatever) migration hundreds of miles in a season, likes the new neighborhood, and stays?
Intersting topic; much food for thought and further investigation. But with all the errors, how does one trust the big picture presented?
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drowning and drought, June 11, 2004
Anyone still believing scientists lack a sense of humanity should read this. Although the title suggests yet another climate study, this isn't a simple analysis of our weather systems. Fagan places the human condition at the centre of his narrative. It's not enough to present more evidence of global warming. In fact, he's adamant about the causes of current climate change being a "side debate". He's much more concerned about how many climate shifts humanity has experienced and how we reacted to them. His theme is our adaptability to weather changes in the past and whether we can garner lessons for the future.
Establishing a scenario beginning twenty thousand years ago, Fagan lines out three Acts for the peopling of the Americas. The first is in "the primodial homeland", Ice Age Siberia, followed by conditions revealed about the Beringian Land Bridge of fifteen thousand years ago. The final act takes us to the chaotic Atlantic and the European environment. Conditions were rarely stable as "the glaciers were never still". Their "irregular dance" kept conditions variable and human response was adapt or perish. Canadian fresh meltwater interrupted the Gulf Stream letting harsh cold envelope Europe.
Human adaptibility often meant improvements on older technologies or innovative ones to cope with the result of climate change. Spears, later with atlatls - "spear throwers" to improve range and accuracy, then bows, were significant tools. Yet, one of the most momentous inventions was the needle - still in use almost unchanged today. This device could produce layered clothing, a major adaptive step in times of abrupt weather changes.
Weather changes can be due to single events - even those occurring at intervals like El Nino. A critical solitary event happened around 6200 BCE with the "implosion" of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. The cascade of fresh water into the North Atlantic created drought conditions throughout Europe and the eastern Mediterranean while raising ocean levels. This rise later led to a catastrophe when the Mediterranean found an outlet to the Euxine Lake. The inflow created the Black Sea, driving people west into the Danube Valley and changing human society in the area drastically. Continuing fluctuations brought further challenges to increasing populations. Stable food supplies provided by agriculture reduced mobility and fed population growth. The cost was people tied to the land and a new vulnerability to climate change.
Fagan's example of this new situation is found in the history of a California people known as the Chumash. These coastal people had deep ties with family members living inland. The arrangement kept food supplies relatively stable through exchange networks. This continuum expanded over a large area resulting in concomitant population growth. When expansion was no longer feasible, war substituted for exchange systems. Not a violent people, the conflicts were the result of environmental pressure on food resources. A drastic social change took place around 1150 AD. The lost networks were restored through a new arrangement. The family system was shelved for a new oligarchy of powerful community leaders working cooperatively with meagre, but sustaining food stocks. While the Chumash remained vulnerable to climate vagaries, they didn't starve as in the past.
Fagan stresses that vulnerability has been built into modern society. Civilisation is a high-stakes game, and the planet is the banker. Most of the cards we played in the past are now in the discard pile. Mobility is not an option when the planet is so thoroughly occupied. New technologies will not provide new lands submerged by rising seas nor blighted by drought. If the Gulf Stream fails again, as it has in the past, it will be all Europe faced with the need for a new home. Where? A Europe covered in ice will produce drought throughout western Asia and likely beyond. It isn't the cause of climate change that requires examination, but what must be done to deal with, Fagan urges. The "stewardship" of resources successfully adopted by some societies must be invoked again. That requires a knowledgeable population, briefed by readers of this book. This is far from a "should read" book - it is a "must read" for us all. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look at the Effects of Climate on Human Life, February 18, 2004
By A Customer
The title of this book, i.e., The Long Summer, pertains to the period of time since the end of the last Ice Age. Although the book covers quite an immense period, as well as covering both eastern and western hemispheres, the author never loses his focus: the effects of climate on humans, their lifestyles, habitation, hunting, agriculture, etc. The book is well written by a well-known expert in the field. The information presented is supported by recent findings in the fields of archaeology and climatology. The writing is clear and engaging such that the book is difficult to put down. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read about ancient history and, in particular, about potential causes for the rise and fall of past civilizations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Eye-Opening, October 5, 2006
This review is from: The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Paperback)
This book is a follow-up to the author's successful The Little Ice Age. It chronicles the remarkable stablilty of the Earth's climate over the past 20K years. Fagan contends, quite rightly IMO, that most of the gains of human civilization have been made during this interglacial warming period. Agriculture's beginnings are highlighted and the minor changes in precipitation which can result in either increased fertility or aridity of populated areas. A world-wide perspective is taken in the book where contemporaneous development are discussed. Like any well-researched piece, little facts are found throughout (for instance, the bow's invention in Skandinavia, of all places). Very interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fagan adds another fascinating chapter to the story..., October 27, 2009
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I got interested in Brian Fagan's work because of an interest in climate change and another in archeology, which he combines to great effect in _The Long Summer_, as well as his other books, such as _The Little Ice Age_. He takes the paleoclimatological data that the researchers are developing as they study the process of global warming and climate change, and then applies it directly to the information we have from archeology and history of different cultures around the world. The result is a fascinating and new perspective on how shifting climate factors affect weather, and how that in turn contributes to the growth and collapse of cultures around the world.

While these books are intended for a general audience, and Dr. Fagan clearly explains the science behind his narratives as he goes along, they are an important window into the possibilities that may face us in the future. Past cultures were unaware of the warming and cooling shifts of climate, which drove periods of harsh and unpredictable weather contributing to disasters, starvation, and the fall of governments. This provides a cautionary tale to us in the present, that we ignore the past and the present at our peril.

I recommend _The Long Summer_ to anyone interested in how the conditions after the Ice Age led to the rise and flourishing of civilizations around the world, and how subsequent changes contributed to their fall. It's a fascinating read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climate is not Kind or Brutal--Just Indifferent, July 1, 2009
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This review is from: The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Paperback)
Most people confuse climate with weather. If the weather is pleasant and reasonably mild, there is the temptation to think that this is the normal state of affairs. In THE LONG SUMMER, Brian Fagan demolishes this comforting thought by detailing how past civilizations with a short generational memory made the same error to their ultimate ruin. The villain Fagan notes is the planet itself, one that does not easily give up its secrets about either climate prediction or control.

Fagan likes to use the pump metaphor to illustrate how incremental changes in rainfall and temperature work to suck in human beings to live in unclearly defined areas in good times and expel them in bad. Fagan has the advantage of modern technology to examine the remnants of past civilizations, all of which point out that humanity has fought a millenia long struggle merely to survive and propagate the species. This struggle, Fagan concludes, has been largely random in the output. Even now, with modern day computers to crunch vast amounts of data, climatologists cannot even agree as to whether the planet is warming up or cooling down. From Paleolithic times until recently, all scientists, leaders, and decision makers had to go on were the most recent events of memory. That which worked recently must work today and will probably work tomorrow. It is this line of thought that gave these decision makers the illusion of control over their environment. Fagan is not judgmental about these decisions relating to social survival since we today are not doing things much differently from past eras. And what is it that Fagan identifies as the struggle to predict and control the environment? He correctly notes that human beings are about as intelligent today as were their ancestors, and that if they erred in their actions, then these errors are the forgivable results of inadequate science or human failing. Fagan analyzes the rise and fall of many cultures over the ages in a manner that deemphasizes their humanistic or tyrannical mindsets. In fact, he suggests that those cultures that were noted for their bruality and genocide were shaped by their environments that pushed them one way toward humanism or another toward despotism. The amounts of detail that Fagan goes into are daunting, an action which is necessary to buttress his thesis with scientific credibility. THE LONG SUMMER, then, is not light reading, yet it is vital reading for if we today fare no better than our predecessors, then the long summers which bedeviled them will surely return to haunt us but with infinitely greater destruction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All You Want to Know About Climate Change, but Were Afraid to Read, January 8, 2009
This review is from: The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Paperback)
Brian Fagan is considered the quintessential authority on Climate Change and how it affects humankind. But he is so much more. For someone who can't get enough of this stuff, I have never read a history on climate change that is so interesting a read.

The Long Summer is a fascinating journey that thrilled me with every page. For the first time, I began to understand the march of history and the people who were affected by these events. That's another thing I love about this book. Dr. Fagan brings the times and the people to life, from the distant past to the near present.

If you love history, you will love this book. This is no dusty tome, and I am not a scholar. The Long Summer is a book about people who really lived and survived what may be our own future.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but could have been alot better, June 13, 2004
By 
Naji Anaizi "Naji" (Rochester, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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I recommend this book more as a reference book when reading about different regions of the world during specific time periods than trying to read this book from beginning to end. I've read several world history books, including Guns Germs and Steel, and this one by far was the most boring read. Some of my complaints are as follows:
1) The science behind the earth's weather patterns and how scientists try to deduce the weather at different times in the history of earth could have been elaborated further with only an extra 5-10 pages.
2) The author includes too many details in some places and too few in others. He concentrates on a specific time period in detail and then jumps a few millenia.
3) This is a minor complaint, but the author doesn't believe in the 'Big Kill'theory. He believes that humans had a very minor role in the extinction of large mammals, and instead attributes it to the changing weather. However, weather has always been in flux, and an unprecedented ( in the past million years) number of species died at a time perfectly coinciding with the spread of Human hunters around the globe.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and repetitious, October 15, 2011
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Barbara Vaughan (Corinaldo, (AN) Italy) - See all my reviews
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I was quite disappointed by this book. Fagan repeats words, phrases, and concepts again and again. He throws out speculative notions without justification, and his grasp of some basic demographic concepts is shaky. I was planning to read his book on Cro Magnon people, but I've decided to give it a pass.

The diagrams and maps are sloppily done. Often they don't show the thing they're intended to show. For example, a map of the area in the western US inhabited by several preColumbian groups, Fagan uses a map of all of North America, on the Mercator scale, so that the polar regions are enormous and you can't really see the area the chapter is talking about.

Note for Kindle edition: There are lots of endnotes in this book, but there are no active links on them, so you can't read a note without searching through the Notes section for it. I finally gave up trying to read the notes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy writing for a "scientific" publication, March 27, 2014
This review is from: The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Paperback)
Sloppy writing for a "scientific" publication... As mentioned on other reviews. I also object to the amount of UN-documented speculation about the lives and motivations of early people. I expected a more rigorous approach to archeology. Anot6her thing that I found annoying is redundant passages that almost seemed to be cut and pasted from other parts of the text.

Another problem is the almost complete lack of information on what was going on in Asia at this time.

I read his book " the Great Journey" and found it much more interesting and well written.
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The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan (Paperback - December 29, 2004)
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