4200 years ago, a sweeping mega-drought devastated agricultural societies across the globe, wiping out civilizations from Ancient Egypt to Mesopotamia, Palestine and the Yangtze River Valley. Now, scientists say the cataclysmic event marks the beginning of a new geologic age: Late Holocene Meghalayan, which encompasses everything from the start of the drought to the present.
From The Guardian: White’s Natural History, a founding classic of its genre, is deemed the fourth most-published book in the English language, after the Bible, Shakespeare and Bunyan, and has certainly been in print since first publication, while the benign White himself is now recognised equally as a great stylist and pioneer ecologist. A tribute.
Oil. The 20th century was shaped by it. The 21st century is moving beyond it. But who gave birth to the oil industry? What have they done with the immense wealth and power it granted them? And what are they planning to do with that power in a post-carbon world? The Corbett Report finds out.
Ashish Kothari & Aseem Shrivastava write: The growing protests of farmers around the country-last month’s protests in Mumbai being the latest-is not just a claim for dignity. Even more portentously, it calls into question the paradigmatic rationality of the reigning development model. Alternatives do exist, practised and conceived of at hundreds of sites in India.
From The Conversation: Are Indigenous and Western systems of knowledge categorically antithetical? Or do they offer multiple points of entry into knowledge of the world? As ways of knowing, both systems share important and fundamental attributes. There are also many cases where science and history are catching up with what Indigenous peoples have long known.
Michael Sacasas writes: Melvin Kranzberg was a professor of the history of technology and the founding editor of the journal Technology and Culture. Here are Kranzberg’s Laws of Technology — “a series of truisms,” according to him, “deriving from a longtime immersion in the study of the development of technology and its interactions with sociocultural change.”
Richard Eckersley writes: The core flaw in the dominant model of progress arises from the equation of progress with modernisation, especially the processes of cultural Westernisation and material progress (measured as economic growth). Global politics is based on this outmoded and increasingly destructive model of human progress and development. Can science change a dire situation?
From McSweeney’s: Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. Yet the plant explorer, who endeavoured to end famine, starved to death in one of Stalin’s gulags. A tribute to a scientific pioneer who foresaw the need for preserving the world’s seed heritage almost a century ago.
Radhika Desai writes: Read what Marx says. Pay no attention to those who tell you Capital is hard: they are merely saying ‘read my book first’. You have limited time: spend it on reading Capital. Remember, Capital was serialised in a workers’ paper. You are today’s workers and Capital is your invitation card to history.
Catrine Jarman writes: Recently, the Easter Islands have become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. But 60 years of archaeological research and recent genetic data shows that this dark tale of ecocide and Malthusian collapse has more to do with Western ignorance and prejudice than facts.
Dana Nuccitelli writes: On 5 November 1965, US president Lyndon Johnson’s science advisory committee sent him a report on the environment, which included a section on atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate change, written by prominent climate scientists. Reviewing it today, one can’t help but be struck by how well they understood climate change back then.
As much as any book can, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” changed the world, by describing it. An immediate best-seller, this classic book launched the modern environmental movement, which, in turn, led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of green laws. On the 55th year of its publication, a tribute.
From The New Yorker: Recent research shows a gap of 4000 years separating the “two key domestications,” of animals and cereals, from the first agrarian economies based on them. Our ancestors evidently took a good, hard look at the possibility of agriculture before deciding to adopt it; because the life they lived was remarkably abundant.
Gail Tverberg writes: The Politically Correct (PC) worldview has been called the “religion of success”. In this post, I explain why many popular (or politically correct) understandings are just plain wrong. I cover many controversial topics, including environmentalism, peer-reviewed literature, climate change models, and yes, religion. I expect that the analysis will surprise almost everyone.
Nehru’s grand illusion was to imagine that the ‘good’ in the modern world could be somehow magically preserved while allowing the ‘evil seed’ (gluttony of power?) to flourish into a ravishing rainforest of destructive avarice, an inevitability our times are having to face, as barbarism knocks on every door. Gandhi’s fears are globally vindicated today.
Prof. Irfan Habib writes: This year is the centenary of one of the most remarkable episodes of modern Indian history, the Champaran satyagraha of 1917 that joined the national movement with the great struggle of the peasantry for bread and land, exposing how the twin processes of drain of wealth and de-industrialisation had ruined India.
From Sanhati: A history of the 240 year-old Raniganj Coalfield– the story of its workers –the many lives that have been spent in its shadows, displaced by coal and depending on it for survival –would be a tale every bit as expansive as the Mahabharata. This two-part article gives a short glimpse of this history.
Amita Baviskar writes: Pranay Lal’s Indica, describes the first 4,600 million years of the subcontinent, comprising a cast of fascinating characters in a drama that begins with the Big Bang and closes with the arrival of Homo sapiens, present-day humans, in India some 70,000 years ago. But along with sparking appreciation, it also raises apprehensions.
From Pragati: Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, governed by precursors of today’s states? Anirudh Kanisetti reviews James Scott’s lucid Against The Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, which provides surprising new evidence that refutes mainstream narratives of how civilization came into being.
From Chronicle.com: In his new book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Stanford University professor Walter Scheidel puts forth the following thesis: that historically, it took four kinds of violent ruptures –mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolution, state failure, and lethal pandemics– to reduce widespread inequality.