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The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations Paperback – March 10, 2009
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“Fagan is a great guide. His canvas may be smaller than Jared Diamond's Collapse , but Fagan's eye for detail and narrative skills are better.” ―New Scientist
“[A] fascinating account of shifting climatic conditions and their consequences.” ―New York Times
“The Great Warming is a thought-provoking read, which marshals a remarkable range of learning.” ―Financial Times
“‘The Great Warming' is a riveting work that will take your breath away and leave you scrambling for a cool drink of water. The latter is a luxury to enjoy in the present, Fagan notes, because it may be in very short supply in the future.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“Brian Fagan offers a unique contribution to this discussion [of climate change]...Readers should not underestimate this book, writing it off as another addition to a burgeoning genre: the travel guide to a torrid world. Fagan's project is much bigger. He re-creates past societies in a lively and engaging manner, aided by his expert synthesis of obscure climatological data...In his ability to bring nature into our global, historical narratives, Fagan rivals Alfred Crosby, William H. McNeill, and Jared Diamond, scholars who revealed to large audiences the explanatory power of microscopic biota or gross geography. Fagan promises to do the same for longterm climate dynamics...We would be fools to ignore his warnings.” ―American Scholar
“This is not only World History at its best, sweeping across all of humankind with a coherent vision, but also a feat of imagination and massive research. If Fagan has given the medieval period throughout the globe a new dimension, he has at the same time issued an irrefutable warning about climate change that is deeply troubling.” ―Theodore Rabb, author of The Last Days of the Renaissance
“Climate has been making history for a very long time, though historians have rarely paid much attention to it. But as it turns out, a few less inches of rain, a change in temperature of just a degree or two can make all the difference in how human events unfold. The Great Warming demonstrates that although human beings make history, they very definitely do not make it under circumstances of their own choosing.” ―Ted Steinberg, author of Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History and American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn
“Anthropology and archaeology have demonstrated that human responses to changes in climate, no matter how severe, are always conditioned by culture and mediated by a society's institutions and technologies. Anthropologists and archaeologists are fortunate to have in Brian Fagan a gifted and committed intellectual ambassador who can convincingly articulate this critical point to a broader audience.” ―Environment and Society
“In his ability to bring nature into our global, historical narratives, Fagan rivals Alfred Crosby, William H. McNeill, and Jared Diamond, scholars who revealed to large audiences the explanatory power of microscopic biota or gross geography. Fagan promises to do the same for long-term climate dynamics. He proves that the regional volatility associated with climate change … shaped societies.” ―The American Scholar
About the Author
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Press; Reprint edition (March 10, 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 159691601X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1596916012
- Item Weight : 9.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.49 x 0.84 x 8.29 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #865,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Fagan cites numerous cultures as examples of those that thrived for centuries--like the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Pueblo--but then in a seeming geological blink of an eye collapsed, mostly due to prolong drought. Along the way, Fagan notes what seems to be a consistent pattern of human beings that cuts across all cultures and ages. When a culture just gets going, it tends to do so when it encounters favorable conditions for growth. There is ample rain, ample vegetation, and ample space to grow crops. The population grows quickly--too quickly. It reaches a tipping point when the previous subsistence level of water and food are now no longer adequate to feed this burgeoning population. Sometimes if the drought is severe and lengthy, the civil authorities do not have time to adjust and their civilization goes under. Other times, when the drought is less severe and less lengthy, these authorities possess enough acumen and foresight to prepare even haltingly a way to preserve water and horde food stuffs to wait out the drought. Fagan notes that even under the best of circumstance, human beings have showed only a limited capacity to withstand a fickle nature. The lessons that he draws for humanity in the twentieth century are cause for the deepest of concern. The potential for catastrophic famine and culture collapse is higher now than in the past if for no other reason than the same conditions which destroyed populations of much fewer numbers than today are still here, only our populations are much higher than those of the past. He is not optimistic that humanity in this century can avoid the same unhappy fates of our ancestors. The best that he can hope for is for all cultures today to look to the past so that we can view ourselves as partners with the earth rather than its master.
Fagan should stick to scientific wording, rather than trying to go the Literary style... which would make the book more readable.
Question: Ever heard of the Cahokia Mounds civilization... 800-1300, in the St Louis area? Widely traded & traveled, and estimated to have had a population greater than that of London during this time. It ranks up there w/ Mesa Verde & Pueblo Bonito... but there is ZERO reference to it, or it's rise & fall, in this book.
"Was Cahokia the largest city in North America?
In its prime, about four centuries before Columbus stumbled on to the western hemisphere, Cahokia was a prosperous pre-American city with a population similar to London's. Located in southern Illinois, eight miles from present-day St Louis, it was probably the largest North American city north of Mexico at that time."
Hard to read, missing info, only focused on 800-1300... like I said, go w/ Gribbins' book on Children of the Ice... You will learn more about the Earth's changes and how it influenced what became mankind.
The Great Warming is a fantastic combination between history and science, providing an excellent background for elementary climatologists and readers wanting to further understand how global climate can affect daily life and food sources. While the Medieval Warming Period was beneficial for the European agricultural model, in many other areas of the globe, drought, famine, and failed crop yields resulted in migratory populations. While western history will downplay these impacts because they were mostly on indigent and native populations, it is important to note that the Aztecs, Mayans, and many other North American native populations were greatly impacted (or even eliminated) due to droughts that lasted decades or centuries.
Critiquing this book is fairly easy. The drawings and maps are absolutely horrible. It's almost like a post-writing editor threw darts at a wall to decide where to put the maps and drawings rather than the author, because they are literally placed in the middle of paragraphs or thoughts without any (or very little) relevance to the current discussion. The biggest point of critique must be the glaring lack of alternative methods theory. The author gave little or no credit to other developments in society for improvements in the quality of life. In other words, the author credits the improvement in living standards almost entirely on the climate change, while ignoring all the other modern European factors. The church, technology, and government were all developing at the same time, which may or may not have led to these quality of life improvements for the average citizen. The author downplays these other factors and enhances the atmospheric and climate changes to make his point. While this approach is perfectly acceptable in an editorial piece, this book is passed off as “science”, which requires an honest evaluation of all plausible theories. The author performs a great disservice to the reader by failing to address these several shortcomings.
I highly recommend this book if you're into history and you want to understand how climate change affected the development of medieval society or at least hear theories on it. If you're really into climate change, this book will be an elementary review and makes inferences that may or may not be correct and require some theatrical license for complete and understanding. Overall, while the author does an exceptional job of bringing climate change and its effect upon society, the inferences leave too much to be readily acceptable and only allow for continued “climate debate” on Fox gnu’s.
Top reviews from other countries
Recommend to anyone with some interest in humananity's past