A very beautiful history book arrived in my mail — and it (naturally) sparked some political thoughts in my brain

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you all to link to a General Knowledge Quiz that DK publishing hosts.   I disclosed at the time that this was not a purely altruistic act, even though I thought the quizzes were fun and I think the world of DK books.  In exchange for promoting the Quiz site, DK’s publicist was kind enough to send me an incredibly gorgeous, wonderful book: History: The Definitive Visual Guide (From The Dawn of Civilization To The Present Day).

I’ve always had a passion for historic surveys (and own several of them). I love seeing the tapestry of history spread out before me.  This type of book is great as a general reference book, and is also just fun to dive into, to acquaint (or reacquaint) oneself with a historic period or two.

The DK book, as one would expect, is lavishly illustrated, and the text is surprisingly accessible.  The book is comprehensive too, ranging from 4.5 million years ago through to pretty much yesterday.  Since it’s a huge book, I’ve only just gotten out of the Ice Age and the beginning of small agricultural communities, so I cannot (and, given its size, will not) offer a comprehensive review.  The early part of the book, though, strikes me as intellectually honest.

I got a real kick of the part of the book covering the climate changes that affected early Homo Sapiens’ development.  Keep in mind that, when these changes occurred, the earth was already billions of years old, so the changes were not related to a still evolving planet.  On the cosmic time line, these climate changes were a millisecond away from us:

Contrary to popular belief, an Ice Age is not a continual deep freeze, but a period of constantly fluctuating climate conditions punctuated by periods of intense cold.

[snip]

Sea cores give only a general impression of Ice Age climate change, but, as a rule, cooling proceeds relatively slowly and warming unfolds rapidly, as was the case at the end of the last cold period (glacial).  Glacial periods in the past have been longer than interglacials — brief, volatile intervals of warming conditions during the Ice Age when the climate was as warm, or warmer than, today.  These increases in temperature are caused by changes in the Earth’s path around the sun and its rotation on its axis.  Natural increases in greenhouse gases add to the warming.  We are currently experiencing an interglacial period caused by these natural phenomena that began about 10,000 years ago.  (pp. 22-23)

The Ice Age chapter goes on to describe the vast sheets of Ice that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere, and the way in which they drastically changed the earth’s landscape by storing water in ice, thereby creating the land shelves that allowed humans to spread out over the globe.

Of course, the earth warmed after the Ice Age, or we’d still be in one.  It warmed so much that Greenland was once actually green.  Then, there was a mini Ice Age, which accounts in part for the voluminous clothing people wore from the 14th century on.  In Queen Elizabeth I’s time, the Thames froze.  Then, the earth warmed again.

Warm and cold, scalded and frozen.  The earth changes endlessly.  There’s an incredible arrogance on the part of humans to say that all those previous changes were Gaia’s decision, while the last warming cycle (a cycle that stopped about 10 years ago) is America’s fault.

I will say again, as I always say, that we, as the most intelligent beings on earth, are its stewards.  As someone who remembers the pollution of the 1960s and early 1970s, I am delighted that we have developed an awareness that helps us keep our earthly garden clean and green.  I want us to continue to use our technological wizardry and knowledge, and our environmental conscience, to keep this world lovely for our children and their children.  BUT, I will not be bullied by flat earth global warmers who use every change in the weather, up or down, to justify a giant, anti-capitalist transfer of wealth from the First World, which is working hard to maintain the environment, to the Third World, which, because it lives very close to a Malthusian starvation level, has no interest whatsoever in improving the environment.

I want to lift up the Third World, but not at my world’s expense.  I believe that the best, and cleanest, future for both the First and Third world is to maximize our existing technology, and to figure out ways to optimize the one fuel on which we all can rely:  Fossil fuel.

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  1. says

     
    If history is any guide, development and growing wealthier is the ONLY way the Third World will take an interest in a cleaner environment.  Every time I hear some lefty suggest that we ought not “allow” Africa to gain access to abundant and cheap energy, I want to shout at them!!  Aside from the question of the human beings involved (child mortality rate, infectious disease rate, starvation, etc.), people at that level of existence have a substantial potential to produce a degraded environment, and only when they are reasonably comfortable will they look around and say “Hey!  Why are we living with all this c**p?  Let’s spend some money cleaning up!”
     
    I used to love explaining the origins of “Glass Beach” in Fort Bragg, California.  When I was a kid – late ’50s and early ’60s – the little town of Fort Bragg disposed of the garbage collected from all over town by driving their big modern compressor garbage trucks down to the beach where they had installed a nice little “parking lot” with a wall on the side facing the sea.  They backed up to the sea wall and tipped the entire load of garbage out onto the beach.  The seagulls cleaned up the edible items, the iron-based metals rusted and got welded to the rocks, the paper and that sort of thing drifted out into the surf, and was thrown up on beaches north and south, depending on currents and wind.
     
    Finally, the town folks were wealthy enough to look around and say “Hey!  Why do we have to deal with this c**p from the dump every time we go to the beach?  Let’s clean up.”  The remnants of the millions of bottles dumped on the beach means that all the clear and colored glass first broken and then rounded by the surf has made the beach look like it’s made of jewels.  It’s just fabulous!!  And you really have a hard time figuring out the history unless someone tells you.  That’s another lesson – the earth is really good at healing itself.

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