course
MINT135 | Autumn | 6 ECTS

Climates and History: What the Past Can Tell Us about the Present and the Future

July of 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded by humans. In Europe, Sicily recorded a temperature of 120 F (39 C), a level of heat largely unimaginable in Europe. Global climate change is already one of the critical environmental questions as more frequent and more intense hurricanes, drought, soaring urban temperatures and vegetation change seem roil human societies and landscapes. Place that seemed immune to natural devastation---Napa Valley, Sta Barbara, Houston, Los Angeles, Iceland, the Swiss Alpes, Paris (!!) now buckle under onslaughts. Climate change is one of the distinctive features of what is now called the Anthropocene. Models of incremental change have informed popular thinking about the questions, but it appears to be far more discontinuous, and far more complex than we have thought. Four major policy documents (the last IPPC and the current one to be released in this October, the UN land use change and climate analysis and the International Biodiversity assessment paint an urgent and dire picture. This class looks at how people have responded (and what has happened ) in earlier intense climate events, (including climate events we didn't have to have, like nuclear winter), and through looking at the current assessments. Eve in light of excellent science, a strong streak of denialism among the most critical polities, the US remains. The scientific community, however, believes that the dynamics of change will now only accelerate and we are only at the beginning of the beginning.. But climate has been affected by many different kinds of earth system phenomena, and it's useful to keep these in mind as well. First because they were profound and consequential, second because the response to them was varied also because current dynamics can amplify their effects. This is a research/ lecture that seeks to explore the 'big' histories of approaches to global climate change. The idea of this class is to develop a working background with the central issues by looking at some of the effects of climate on societies in the past, the contemporary dynamics, and the range of possible approaches. The point of the seminar is to think about structures and forms of transitions, but also to think about what these activities might entail and what one might want to think about for the future. The 'charge' of the course is really to think concretely but very creatively at the same time about this defining set of questions of the 21st century. While many of the readings are historical, I have also included the literature on the science about these events, as well as current implications of these events as in the current climate landscape. You do need to read the current reports and understand their implications as the later part of the course moves into IPCC scenarios. Because this is a research seminar, many of the topics should be student developed and directed. The first part of the course will address some of the background issues (history; the current science): We will develop the remainder of the course following the clusters of interest of students as expressed through Thus, this syllabus is a 'climate change 1.0' which we will shape together.. The last part of the course will focus on presentations looking at climate change by continent, case studies scenarios and projections. The point of the readings is to familiarize you with some of the methods and the 'Classics', but also to use this as springboards for thinking and rethinking the questions of development. For this reason I have put quite a bit of reading in the course on environmental ethics and philosophy. URLs of relevant websites will be on the class site, and regular postings of 'news of the week' should go on it as well. Think also of the class website as a developing bibliography.