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Climate collapse excesses

Discussion in 'World History' started by innonimatu, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
    Every age has its fads. Ours seems to be the "climate" invocation in whatever field of social science.

    Professors of "climate studies" are not content with studying the history of the climate. They seem to be trying to forcefully draw "conclusions" from it. Take this recent opinion piece:

    Climate change fueled the rise and demise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, superpower of the ancient world

    Of course, the reason why I am posting this is that they show no such thing. Their own data ought to make clear the absurdity of the claim:

    Obviously an empire that keeps expanding for one full century after the local climate changes is not collapsing due to climate change. This, in the ancient world even more so than the present, represents a couple livespans, several generations rising to their prime and passing away.

    Anyone claiming publicly "the dust bowl of the 1930s caused the collapse of the american empire" now would be laughed out of a gathering. The US may be making a mess now of its international position of power but that has zero to do with climate shift in its hinterlands a century ago.

    How the hell dos this crap get published? Have people in the academia and the media lost all sense?

    It was bad enough with the adulation for the simplistic explanations of Jared Diamond in his Germs Guns and Steel, as if a few factors could determine everything. These things come and go, there's a whole history of history by now, how theories have risen and been dismantled or cut down to size. The past, as the present, is messy to understand and explain, many people and many circumstances interacting. Sure, resources or technology are determinant for what is and is not possible.
    But among the realm of the possible there nearly always remain choices to be made, it could go many ways. In this case an empire clearly continued to rule a large region throughout climate change... and that is if we can trust these climate experts more on their reconstruction of past climate than in their attempt at interpret its alleged consequences!

    It seems that we're now going to live through a temporary fad of attributing everything disastrous to climate change... :rolleyes:
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
  2. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

    Aug 28, 2007
    Sovereign State of the Have-Nots
    I think it is part of the general neoliberal epistemology that tries to avoid any actual analysis of society. The more social phenomena can be attributed to physical (or generally non-social) causes, the better. It's the logical extension of the founding invention of liberalism, the notion that society followed laws like those which had been discovered to govern planetary motion.
    Traitorfish likes this.
  3. Wastl

    Wastl Warlord

    Jul 16, 2012
    Not quite sure where you are getting all that stuff from, but the data you show from their research doesn't really contradict their point at all. Though it should be rather obvious that there rarely is one single reason for everything. Things do however combine for a much larger effect.

    You go from a highly successful time, to stagnation during a sudden and heavy shift in climate. After a while the situation stabilised again. This was mostly a time of somewhat stable climate again, not a sudden shift from one end up the spectrum to another. Which the graph shows quite clearly. For some reason you treat even the slightly negative numbers as part of the main drought, which doesn't really fit. That was the period leading into the drought, not the main drought itself.
    While Assyria did manage to grow in size while the draught was in full effect, it lost control over vassals, had to put down multiple rebellions and ended up collapsing under its own weight when faced with a slightly tougher opposition. It certainly isn't unreasonable to claim that the shift in climate had a large impact. After all, rebellion and vassals breaking away fits very well to resources getting scarce. If you also consider that Assyria was supposed to be drained of wealth at that point and couldn't support itself anymore even though it had more territory to gain resources from, you certainly can wonder where all the resources went to. This fits well to the theory that there simply wasn't the abundance of resources anymore that originally led to the rise (especially if you add the constant rise in population due to resettling conquered peoples in Assyrian core lands). You also shouldn't forget, that a shift in availability of resources doesn't somehow mean that the effects happen immediately. After all, a big Empire usually has the means to keep going for a while, until it eventually runs into problems due to having spend all its reserves.

    So no, offering the idea that big shifts in climate played a role in Assyria's downfall is certainly not something gets contradicted by their own data.
    It also seems like you don't really know how science works. Putting an idea out there and having other people judge its merrits is exactly how science is supposed to work.
    Yeekim likes this.
  4. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

    Dec 4, 2006
    You absolutely cannot assume cause and effect for two things that happened a full century apart. Namely the climate shift and the collapse of the Assyrian empire. They empire was expanding as the climate shifted. It continued to expand after that climate change.

    It is absolutely unreasonable to even claim a correlation, much less causation, between the climate change depicted on that graph and the political changes in the assyrian empire. There may have been an influence on its internal politics, but nothing, absolutely nothing, can be "shown". There is an interval of 60 years from the start of the so-called "megadrought" and the vassals breaking away, in the data of the authors themselves. The effects of drought and famine never even in the history of mankind took 60 years (not even 6 years!) to manifest themselves politically. Starving people get pissed, and fight, immediately. One of two years. Because after a while more they just die out! Likewise if it is the imperial core and the recruiting pool being affected the vassals are not going to wait 60 bloody years to notice and rebel!

    This is not science. It is junk and should be called out as junk.
  5. Zardnaar

    Zardnaar Deity

    Nov 16, 2003
    Dunedin, New Zealand
    I think it's mostly due to a lack of records.

    Archeology can tell you a lot but doesn't tell you everything.

    It's usually obvious when a war destroys a city, other uses not so much. Any surviving writing is usually tax records or basically monuments saying I'm great or I was here

    A lot of these places like Assyria are also in ecologically marginal areas. One or two bad years in regards to water is going to create problems.

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