Navigation Links
Global Warming: Lessons of History Help the Future

From the enigma of Easter Island to the famines that struck India in the 19th century, the past is throwing up vital pointers for scientists poring over how to combat looming climate change .

Rising global temperatures this century will stress almost every agricultural region of the world, according to the latest report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But for poor tropical nations, the risk is the greatest by far. For them, malnutrition, caused by prolonged spells of drought and flooding, looms as a distant but serious worry.

Experts pondering how to tackle the threat are delving into history, exploring how civilisations of the past, facing similar perils, either coped or were wiped out.

US academic Jared Diamond, author of "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," says "ecocide" -- ecological suicide -- plays a greatly under-estimated role in the fall of societies.

He gives the example of Easter Island, the isolated speck of land in the Pacific Ocean, which once had a population estimated to be as many as 20,000 people.

Its civilisation expired in the 18th century in a bloody sunset of internecine warfare and cannibalism after the trees which provided fuel and timber were all cut down.

Prolonged drought wiped out the advanced Mayan civilisation at Tikal, in modern-day Mexico, around a thousand years ago. And in the 15th century, the last Viking settlement in Greenland petered out, a victim of the "Little Ice Age" that brought bitter chill to northern latitudes after several balmy centuries.

"In the worst cases of complete collapse, everybody in the society emigrated or died," Diamond, a professor of geography at University of California, Los Angeles, says in his acclaimed book.

"Obviously, though, this grim trajectory is not one that all past societies followed to completion," adds Diamond. "Different societies collapsed to different degrees and in somewhat different ways, while many societies didn't collapse at all."

Evan Fraser of the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, northern England, says he found a common thread running through the worst famines of recent history.

In research presented at a seminar in Paris last week, Fraser looked at Ireland's Potato Famine of 1845-50, in which around a million people died; at famines that killed around 45 million people in British-ruled India from 1875-1902; and at the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia that killed around a million.

It might seem nothing links these three events.

Outwardly, Ireland's famine was caused by a blight that destroyed the potato, the staple crop; India's was inflicted by a failure of monsoon rains; and Ethiopia's by a drought.

But, in all three cases, the agro-ecosystems were fragile.

Ireland's potato growers each had tiny strips of land in vast, open fields, making it easy for a blight to rampage through their single crop. In India, forests which could have preserved moisture when water was scarce were massively cut down by the British to make way for tea plantations. In Ethiopia, soil degradation worsened the drought problem.

But environmental abuse was only one factor.

Food shortages were worsened by the destruction of human, social and financial capital, which is vital for keeping agriculture going during a lean spell. And the crisis amplified into full-blown famine in the lack of government support.

Looking at Ethiopia's rainfall pattern between 1960 and 1997, Fraser was struck to discover that the country had, in the early decades, experienced precipitation levels that were just as low as in the year of the drought.

So why did a million die?

The reason, says Fraser, lies in the Soviet-style collectivisation of agricult ure of the late 1970s. This destroyed Ethiopia's farming communities along with their rich store of knowledge, traditions of self-help and flexible response to crisis.

In Ireland and India, too, coping mechanisms were badly eroded by the time the emergency struck.

The Industrial Revolution drove many of Ireland's farmers into poverty, as they lost non-farming income, such as making linen, to textile mills in Britain. In India, the rural fabric was ripped to pieces as Britain transformed the country into a source of cheap commodities and labour.

When crops failed, the rich and powerful provided almost no help and government support was either inadequate or misdirected, and famine began to bite.

Fraser says the lessons of these disasters can be brought together into an analytical tool to help predict if an agricultural system -- the complex web that includes food growing, trade, storage and distribution, inputs and finance -- is at risk.

"Is the agro-ecosystem resilient? Can farmers adapt? Does the community have assets? Are there institutional safety nets?" asks Fraser.

If "no" is successively the answer to these four questions, the crisis has a progressively deeper impact, he says. In other words, a harvest failure radiates out into the wider economy and then degenerates into a killer famine.


'"/>




Related medicine news :

1. SARS-Free Taiwan to Mark End Phase of Global Fight
2. Prevent Global Warming by Becoming A Vegetarian
3. India To March Ahead in The Global HealthCare Competition
4. Global Outbreak Of Bird Flu Warning By Chinese Scientist
5. TWO India Doctors Listed in TIME for Contribution to Global Health
6. Global Hospitals coming to city of Joy
7. John Hopkins CGHH program provides Global Health education
8. Ban on Global fund lifted in Uganda
9. Global Warming Could Cause 5 Million Illnesses: WHO
10. Global Health Bonds to Improve Health Care Facilities for the Underprivileged.
11. Skin Cancer Research To Go Global
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... A revolution is underway. ... ambulance transport experience for the millions of people who require these medical transport ... taxi industry through the use of technology. Now, SmartEMS has put forth an ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... 26, 2016 , ... PawPaws brand pet supplements owned by Whole ... enhance the health of felines. The formula is all-natural and is made from Chinese ... PawPaws Cat Kidney Support Supplement Soft Chews are Astragalus Root Extract and ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... The temporary closing of Bruton Memorial Library on June 21 due to ... a new, often overlooked aspect of head lice: the parasite’s ability to live away from ... common occurrence, but a necessary one in the event that lice have simply gotten out ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and ... their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health promotion. , The Wellness at Work Awards took ... the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. iHire was one of 42 businesses to receive ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Marcy was in a crisis. Her son James, ... out at his family verbally and physically. , “When something upset him, he couldn’t control ... use it. He would throw rocks at my other children and say he was going ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)...  Collagen Matrix, Inc., ("Collagen Matrix") the driving ... collagen and mineral based medical devices for tissue ... Messer has joined the company as Vice ... growing portfolio of oral surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedic and ... the Collagen Matrix executive team as an accomplished ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 ... the "Structural Electronics 2015-2025: Applications, Technologies, Forecasts" ... In-Mold Electronics, Smart Skin, Structural ... Structural electronics involves electronic and/or ... protective structures, replacing dumb structures such as vehicle ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... report to their offering. ... The World Market for Companion Diagnostics covers the world market ... the report includes the following: , World ... Region (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 , World IVD ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: