AHA Today

Climate, Politics, and History: What Can the 1600s Teach Us?

Kenneth Pomeranz | May 29, 2013

In “The Inevitable Climate Catastrophe,” Geoffrey Parker reminds us of how human history is linked to natural history, and of some historical dimensions of the hugely important contemporary debates about climate change. But if the title of his piece stresses inevitability, he also has another, perhaps more historical, message: “it took human stupidity to turn [the 17th-century climate] crisis into catastrophe.” Better choices were available; at least one large-scale society (Japan) made them, and had a comparatively benign century. Thus, he shows, history has much to teach us: about what is bound to recur (loosely speaking), and must be faced; about what need not recur if good choices are made; about why people no more foolish than we are often make disastrous choices; and consequently, about why historical understanding is a necessary part of dealing with both political and technical questions.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

Tags: AHA Today Environmental History


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