quite a statement

March 4th, 2008

I don’t really have time to go into this, I’m busy sitting in the office thinking maybe I should do something productive, but I was struck by one paragraph in this article:

 Climate change has been one of the major sources of violence and instability during most of human history. From the fourth century BC until the battle of Ayn Jalut in 1260, which ended the Mongol Invasion of the middle east, world history was dominated by climate-change wars. For 1,700 years, the drying out of central Asia sent wave after wave of nomads to topple the Roman Empire, unseat Chinese dynasty after dynasty, expel the Byzantine Empire from Asia Minor and finally topple the Arab Caliphate by sacking Baghdad. Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan were propelled onto the world scene by climate change.

Oh, really? This is the first time I’ve ever read anything blaming all those migrations and wars on climate change. I dunno, maybe it’s right, but I suspect that perhaps if climate change did play a role, it was one of many factors.

2 Responses to “quite a statement”

  1. Jeremiah Says:

    I tend to reject monocausal answers to complicated problems, but certainly ecological changes in Central Asia could explain some of these historical mass migrations.

    I remember teaching a class on Medieval Europe once and after we had talked about invaders from the steppes, and bubonic plague from the East, and then more invaders from the steppes one student raised his hand and asked the important question.

    “What was GOING ON in Central Asia at the time?”

    It’s an under-studied field to be sure and the student was dead on in asking it. Of course he followed that up with:

    “What? Was there like a supermarket of death somewhere east of Turkey?”

    Ah, youth.

  2. wangbo Says:

    “supermarket of death somewhere east of Turkey”- damn, I’d be too tempted to reply, “Yeah, it’s the Mosul branch of Walmart”.

    But yeah, monocausal answers suck. I mean, does climate change fully explain the split between southern and northern Xiongnu? Is it the reason for Genghis Khan’s father’s death? Does it explain Genghis’ desire for revenge? Does it help us understand Genghis’ rise to power and the unification of the Mongol tribes?

    I’ve read nothing of the history of the climate of the grasslands north of the Wall, and I would not be surprised if climate change were one factor driving the way history turned out up there, but blaming it all on climate change is just a tad too simplistic for my tastes.