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Adapting to climate change

Oct 04,2018 - Last updated at Oct 04,2018

The Pastoralist mode of production in Africa arose thousands of years ago as a subsequent adaptation to climate change. Nick Brooks suggested in Quarterly International in 2006 that pastoralism helped increase the mobility of the inhabitants during harsh environments seeking better natural resources for their domesticated animals which supported their livelihood and accumulated their wealth.

The beginning of human agricultural activities in history coincided with global warming too; drying out of swamps, which allowed crops to grow in a highly rich virgin soils without becoming rotten from being submerged in water, or frozen in severe winter conditions. Adversely, with changing weather cycles shifting into a colder climate, environmental desiccation once again pushed some farmers to pastoralism, causing a perpetual conflict between farmers and pastoralists over food in a manner similar to what has been happening between the Arab Janjaweed camel pastoralists and African farmers of settled communities in Darfur, Sudan, during the latest and most severe contemporary global warming that had been impacting the region for decades.

Wars between pastoralists and farmers deepened with time as the limited resources became scarce and as agriculture developed more sustainable techniques and improved methodologies of harvesting and storage. Raids were frequent once trading between meat-dairy producers and food production from agriculture met an imbalance that sparked enmity. With worsening climate conditions, the life of both farmers and pastoralists became much worse, thus wars flared up between them becoming more frequent and fierce.

These conflicts were experienced in Jordan in the 19th century, interpreted from Swiss orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt’s writings when he visited the area in 1812. The enmity, skirmishes and conflicts between farmers and pastoralists in Jordan continued into almost half the 20th century, probably until the independence of Jordan in 1946, as tribes raided each other in search of fresh grazing grounds.

On the other hand, if we look at the bigger image of great civilisations that prospered on the great rivers, such as the Nile, Euphrates, Tigress, Mekong and Yangtze, great ancient civilisations were established with strong central governments as people moved into river basin areas seeking water abundance after a period of desiccation. People gathered into organised communities, protected by a divine dynasty and a strong army which made sustainability of the natural resources possible through a central government that controlled even distribution of water between its subjects. However, climate change, once again, assisted in the destruction of these great achievements, with the Hyksos invading Egypt and the Mongols invading Baghdad, the capital of Islamic civilisation, in the southeast in 1258AD.

As for ancient Egypt, when it was prospering and building a world heritage, it was subjected to fierce attacks by the Hyksos during colder climates, between 1760-1520BC, for example, who came from the north. It is almost certain now that after 2000BC there was a sudden cooling down in the global temperatures which affected the Hyksos in the north and incited their movement towards a warmer region south. In addition, at the beginning of the colder period, many violent volcano eruptions happened in Italy, the Pacific and Alaska, which accelerated the cooling down process even further by partially blocking the sun.

Ironically, once the climate became warmer in another cycle, the Egyptian army expanded north into Syria seeking a cooler and richer environment. This trend of demographic changes in response to climate change is similar to what we are experiencing today as African environmental refugees are flocking north to Europe. It is of significance to note that since the end of the last glacier almost 20,000 years ago, anomalies in temperatures fluctuated between one to 2oC however, with the expected increase in temperature of 2-6oC, as predicted by different renowned research institutes published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the magnitude of water and food shortages, as well as rising sea levels, will make the numbers of environmental refugees in the second half of the century beyond imagination. Therefore, supporting the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015 is neither a matter of obligation, nor an ethical choice, but indeed a necessity for the survival of the human race.


The writer is energy and green buildings consultant. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times. [email protected]

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