Human-made climate change may have begun in the last two hundred years, but our species has witnessed many eras of climate instability. The results have not always been pretty. From Ancient Egypt to Rome to the Maya, some of history’s mightiest civilizations have been felled by pestilence and glacial melt and drought.
The challenges are no less great today. We face hurricanes and megafires and food shortages and more. But we have one powerful advantage as we face our current crisis: the past. Our knowledge of ancient climates has advanced tremendously in the last decade, to the point where we can now reconstruct seasonal weather going back thousands of years and see just how people and nature interacted. The lesson is clear: the societies that survive are those that plan ahead.
Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani’s Climate Chaos: Lessons on Survival from Our Ancestors (PublicAffairs, 2021) is a book about saving ourselves. Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani show in remarkable detail what it was like to battle our climate over centuries and offer us a path to a safer and healthier future.
Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland.
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