By the time you read this, it’s the start of December – the last month of the year!
If anyone is even reading this, that is. If any of us are even still alive! Because there’s really very little time left before all the environmentalists’ predictions for 2015 over the years can come to pass. I mean, surely this is the year when they finally get it right.
Paul Erhlich predicted that by 2015 the vast majority of rainforest species would be extinct. John Holdren, the White House Science Czar, predicted that we’d be well on the way to the death of 1 billion people by now due to climate change-induced famines. And, of course, countless environmentalist “experts” had predicted that the polar ice caps would be totally gone by the summer of 2015.
None of these things happened; in fact the Antarctic ice grew. I really doubt any of them will happen in the next 30 days, either.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I do believe climate change exists. Part of why I do is because I’m a historian and I’ve seen clear historical evidence of climate change in the past. I’d go so far as to say you’d have to be an idiot not to believe in climate change if you’ve seen the historical evidence. I even believe that humans can affect climate; that’s obvious too. We always have affected our local environment and now we operate on an industrial scale where we can have an industrial-level effect on our climate.
I just don’t believe in the Apocalyptic Gaia-cult predictions of politically invested opportunists. And even less in the horrible solutions they try to push for.
And, man, are they awful about it. Now there’s a climate conference in Paris where the regressive left wants to talk about how to cut emissions for “sustainability.” Some of them are probably talking about how ancient civilizations that didn’t learn the lesson of climate change collapsed because of it, just like they warn (and secretly hope) that our civilization will collapse.
And since their predictions about famines and ice caps melting and Australia turning into a waterless wasteland all failed to come true, they’ve taken to claiming that the “real” reason for terrorism is probably climate change. Which is really convenient for them because they’re all way too cowardly to talk about the real cause, Wahabi Islamism, even though they’re all going to be in the city that suffered a terrible attack at the hands of Wahabi Islamists’ guns and bombs.
If you still have doubts about climate change over time, you don’t need to ask an ecologist or a geologist – any decent historian could tell you about it. Look at England, for instance. In the last 2000 years of historical data, we know there were times when it was much drier, much wetter, much hotter and much colder than it is today. From the 1600s to the 1800s, the climate was so much colder in England that the Thames would regularly freeze over – so much that people would hold “frost fairs” right on the river!
Photo by Thomas Wyke (scan from FT magazine, 2007-09-30) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
But if you go further back, England was much much warmer. In Roman times, England (or Britannia) was wine country. We have found at least seven major vineyard operations from the Roman era, including some quite a ways to the north, but it is likely that the Romans grew grapes and made wine right up to Hadrian’s wall. In fact, some Roman historians speculate that one of the factors for the building of the wall was because the Romans felt that it was only the territory north of the wall where grapes would not grow (so it wasn’t worth occupying).
In the Roman Empire in general, the rapid rise and expansion of Rome’s power has been in part credited to having the good luck of a warm period which made things a lot easier for them to build and sustain a massive civilization. When the warm period ended, things became much harder all around, and this might have accelerated Rome’s collapse.
There are other famous cases too. You’ve probably heard environmentalists preach about how the ancient Mayans had an amazing and advanced civilization that was destroyed because they failed to be sustainable. These climate preachers of doom smugly say that if we don’t start imposing their sustainability agenda, what happened to the arrogant Maya will probably happen to us too.
It sounds like a strong argument. I mean, it makes sense, right? If time and time again you had great cultures brought down because they didn’t treat their environment correctly, we would be fools not to learn from that and start cutting down on our evil technology and its abuse of our environment now, right?
That’s the problem with history: the facts are facts, but if you don’t think very carefully, it’s easy to learn all the wrong lessons from those facts.
“Sustainability” is not the lesson to learn from all this. Actually, sustainability is probably exactly what the Romans and the Mayans tried to do – before it killed them. Sustainability is the non-answer that says that if our environment creates a resource challenge, the thing to do is to just cut down on everything. To go backward. To start using less.
When the Romans started running low on food, or the Mayans started to run low on water, what do you think they did? They tried to become more “sustainable” by using less. The wealthy and powerful got to keep using resources, while the poor and weak got less and less. The lower classes went hungrier and thirstier for the “good of society,” while the elites kept holding on to their luxuries as usual. Progress was rolled back. Cities and towns were abandoned one by one because they were no longer ecologically viable. They continued cutting back on their use of resources until there was no civilization left to save.
The Roman and the Mayan people didn’t die out, they just went back to barbarism. The same people, at least the ones who didn’t die when civilization collapsed, kept right on living there – only now everything great they accomplished was gone and they were back to being subsistence farmers living a harsher, more brutal, more fruitless existence.
Photo by John Isaac (UNEP-WCMC Internal Reseources) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
And that’s pretty much what the Environmentalist Left wants us to do too. The sustainability they try to sell us means using less energy, retreating from the amazing unique advancements of our civilization, buying a little more time for the elites in a world where only the likes of Al Gore will get to keep flying in jets or owning cars or eating meat while the rest of us get water rationing and power rationing and calorie rationing and freedom rationing until everything we were falls apart.
The real lesson of history here isn’t “the Romans and the Mayans weren’t sustainable so their civilization collapsed.” The real lesson is that the Romans and the Mayans collapsed because sustainability was the only dumb answer they could come up with. They didn’t fall apart because their technology and advancement ruined their environment. They fell apart because they didn’t advance enough.
To be fair to the Mayans and the Romans, even though they were both incredible civilizations that accomplished so many amazing things, they certainly weren’t nearly as amazing as we are. They didn’t have anywhere close to the level of understanding of science and technology we have. They didn’t have the tools to figure out what was happening. Their culture didn’t have anywhere close to the flexibility and creativity and vision that ours has. So they probably couldn’t have saved themselves.
If they could have had the analytical and industrial power we had, it could have been different. They could have figured out the problem and developed new and better means of transporting water and producing food and the other things to keep their civilization vibrant and alive.
They didn’t really have that option. Sustainability was the best dumb thing they could come up with to try to survive. You can’t blame them for that. But you could sure blame us because we do have the choice. We have and will keep having challenges in our environment. And if we let a civilization-hating cult of morons be the ones who dictate a pre-industrial answer to those challenges, instead of using our technology and our industry and our amazing talent for innovation to let us grow (rather than shrink) our way out of our problems, we won’t just be learning all the wrong lessons from history, we’ll be dishonoring our ancestors by throwing away everything that we learned and gained between their time and ours.
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.
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