In this cautionary tale, journalist Linden lays out evidence that climate change is the culprit behind the demise of previous civilizations.
In The Future in Plain Sight (1998), Linden argued that we dare not be complacent simply because our current society has remained relatively stable for a number of years. Here, he takes an even broader perspective, positing climate change as the “serial killer” responsible for a series of death blows to civilizations both ancient and modern. The effect of climate fluctuation on the planet is a hot topic, with new research pointing to sudden, dramatic shifts: the “switch” model. Drought-induced starvation led the Akkadians of the once-Fertile Crescent to abandon their fabled cities so quickly that walls were left half-finished. Mayan leaders were likewise done in when their water sources failed. Norse colonies in Greenland disappeared during the Little Ice Age; if climate had remained favorable, they might have had the opportunity to overrun the Americas. Linden describes how scientists use ice cores and sediment to determine past climate changes, then considers how the evidence stacks up for each civilization. He moves on to El Niño’s impact on more recent history, especially that of India under British rule, when imperial arrogance allowed famine to kill millions. The final chapters are devoted to the disconnection between the scientific consensus and the political debate over global warming. This obviously frustrates the author, who has reported on this topic for years and here resorts to the device of a “Martian observer” shaking his head at our stupidity.
Although whole volumes have been devoted to each of the topics covered, this text provides a sound orientation to a controversial subject.