The Winds of Change

The Winds of Change

Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations

Book - 2006
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The Winds of Changeplaces the horrifying carnage unleashed on New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama by Hurricane Katrina in context. Climate has been humanity's constant, if moody, companion. At times benefactor or tormentor, climate nurtured the first stirrings of civilization and then repeatedly visited ruin on empires and peoples. Eugene Linden reveals a recurring pattern in which civilizations become prosperous and complacent during good weather, only to collapse when climate changes -- either through its direct effects, such as floods or drought, or indirect consequences, suchas disease, blight, and civil disorder. The science of climate change is still young, and the interactions of climate with other historical forces are much debated, but the evidence mounts thatclimate loomed over the fate of societies from arctic Greenland to the Fertile Crescent and from the lost cities of the Mayans in Central America to the rain forests of Central Africa. Taking into account the uncertainties in both science and the historical record, Linden explores the evidence indicating that climate has been a serial killer of civilizations.The Winds of Changelooks at the present and then to the future to determine whether the accused killer is on the prowl, and what it will do in the future. The tragedy of New Orleans is but the latest instance in which a region prepared for weather disasters experienced in the past finds itself helpless when nature ups the ante. In the closing chapters, Linden explores why warnings about the dangers of climate change have gone unheeded and what is happening with climate today, and he offers perhaps the most explicit look yet at what a haywire climate might do to us. He shows how even a society prepared to absorb such threshold-crossing events as Katrina, the killer heat wave in Europe in 2003, or the floods in the American Midwest in the 1990s can spiral into precipitous decline should such events intensify and become more frequent. The Winds of Changeplaces climate change, global warming, and the resulting instability in historical context and sounds an urgent warning for the future.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, c2006
ISBN: 9780684863528
0684863529
Branch Call Number: ANF 551.60901 LIN
Characteristics: x, 302 p. : ill., 1 map ; 25 cm

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Nov 03, 2011

The title of the book is deceptive: the book is really about more than it’s name would suggest: it’s about more than just the winds.
The topic is climatic. He explores climatic changes of the past. Changes that a few years ago would have not even have been guessed at. As a result of new technologies and methodologies as well as the appearance of recent new data, it has now become accepted in the scientific community that there have been substantial changes in the earth’s climate just since the Ice Age alone. What caused the changes? How quickly did they occur? What repercussions did they have? That’s what this book is about.
Very eloquently, Linden’s book links climatic change with the course of human evolution; the Little Ice Age with the rupture of the Viking connection between Europe and colonies in Iceland and Greenland; between el Nino events and social upheaval in Europe that led to the French Revolution; a failing el Nino and the failure of the Indian monsoon at the end of the Victorian era and huge famines across India and China as a result of ensuing crop failures.
And then, of course, the author must address the current and coming climatic changes: the evidence that the changes may well be already in the making. The weather records that are continually being shattered. The extreme weather that bakes Europe and dries out the Rhine; the mega=flooding in the Mississippi Valley; the protracted period of drought in Indonesia. The litany goes on.
This book is like sleuthing on a global, historic and prehistoric scale. It’s about putting together the jig-saw puzzle pieces of research here and there in some other part of the world; about findings in one scientific discipline and connecting it with research in somebody else’s area of expertise. It’s a grand book. It’s the kind of book that reads kind of like a novel --- it captures your interest --- it’s downright riveting in parts --- except it’s not a novel --- it’s for real. And it’s awfully tough to put down.
Eugene Linden’s background as an author who has been at work extensively in the popular press, having written for Time, the National Geographic and Fortune magazine, among others, shows through as he produces a book that is very informative yet eminently readable by and accessible to most anyone who would care to pursue this most interesting of topics. Linden is one of the authors who has mastered the craft of writing to the wider audience, of bringing to touch concept, the difficult idea, to the mass audience. No big words; well not many, anyway; no convoluted sentences.
But yes, there is (a lot of) science in the book, but, gratefully, not the kind that involves frightening or perhaps even terrifying mathematical or chemical formulae --- just rational thinking.
Reading this book was electrifying at the same time that it was satisfying. Read it for yourself.

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