One of the books I am slowly working through is an abridgement of A Study of History by Arnold Toynbee. At this point he is looking for the reasons why some relatively primitive societies will develop into more advanced civilizations but most of them continue on with little change. What is the spark? He discounts race and environment for the genius of development. He then goes on into some weird talk of myths and such. That is not what caught my attention.
I was interested in his discussion of the time period leading to the beginnings of the Egyptian civilization. You may not have thought about it but the Sahara Desert in northern Africa was once a vast, well watered grass land. It was covered with game animals and the primitive hunter-gathers lived an idyllic life. Then you had global warming. The glaciers melted and the rain patterns changed. The nomads of the north African steppes had to make some choices. The two groups he follows are the same racial stock and they were dealing with the same environmental issues.
One group moved east to the Nile valley and Delta and began to use human ingenuity to transform it into a food producing area. This laid the groundwork and was the catalyst for the next several thousand years of advanced Egyptian civilizations.
A second group moved south into what is modern Sudan and evidently found a similar situation with a river and a delta but instead of transforming it they settled down to the same hunter-gatherer culture that they had lived in the north. They never developed.
“At that time, it would seem, the ancestors of the modern Dinka and Shilluk parted with their heroic neighbours (sic) and followed the line of least resistance by retreating southwards to a country where they could continue to live, without changing their way of life, in physical surroundings partly identical with those to which they were accustomed. They settled in the Tropical Sudan, within the range of the equatorial rains, and here their descendants remain to this day living the self-same life as their remote ancestors. In their new home the sluggish and unambitious emigrants found what their souls desired.” page 72This made me wonder if the panic over global warming and climate change could be an opportunity for humanity to make another big cultural advance. So far the trend is to preserve things as they are. Could it be that the path to the future is adjusting to the change and applying the innovative genius of the race to moving ahead.
The ones who tried to keep things the same petrified their culture. The ones who adjusted reached new heights. Perhaps what we need to do is get over the fear and look at moving forward. Of course both sides in the dispute could use these arguments.
Viva la climate change.
Toynbee, Arnold J. A Study of History, abridgment by D.C. Somervell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
homo unius libri