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Climates of Hunger

Mankind and the World's Changing Weather

Reid A. Bryson

Publication Year: 1977

In recent years, world climate changes have drawn more attention than at any other time in history. What we once called "crazy weather," just a few years ago, is now beginning to be seen as a part of a logical and, in part, predictable pattern, an awesome natural force that we must deal with if man is to avoid disaster of unprecedented proportions.

Climates of Hunger is a book of paramount importance for our time. It will be essential reading not only for professionals in the field—including agricultural meteorologists, political scientists, geographers, sociologists, and business counselors—but for all who are concerned in any way with environmental trends, world and domestic food supplies, and their effects on human institutions.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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pp. ix-x

I am quickly turned off by books written by specialists for other specialists-which this book is not. It is a book I shall cherish-and persuade my students to read. Climate has been one of the many historic influences that historians have failed to take seriously. Or in...

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pp. xi-xv

In 1973 an international group of sCientists wrote to the President of the United States about a matter of grave concern. They were specialists in the history of ice ages, and they could see from the rhythm of past ice ages the possibility of another ice age within centuries, and almost positively within a few millennia. There is no...

I: Two Tales of Famine

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1. A Drought in Ancient Greece

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pp. 3-18

CLIMATES OF HUNGER are changed climates, climates that no longer support the crops and herds, berries, fruits, and game they once did. Climates change: a culture closely tied to a particular climate finds itself in danger. Where agriculture is hard pressed to support a population, that...

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2. The Case of the Missing Farmers

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pp. 19-30

STRETClHNG ACROSS the Great Plains from Iowa to Colorado, drifted over with the soil of centuries, lie the vestiges of a thousand small villages. They are lost to the sight and mind of all but a few archaeologists, but once they teemed with life-the bustle of...

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3. Weather of lndian Times

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pp. 31-44

WHEN WE PROPOSED a drought for the Great Plains 800 years ago, we made, in effect, a prediction, though one for the past rather than for the future. But the prediction was not specific enough to be tested. It had to be refined: where, precisely, would slightly expanded westerlies cause a drought, and how serious would...

II: Our Climates since A.D. 900

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4. One Thousand Years in Iceland

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pp. 47-56

As THE FLOW of westelies around the North Pole expanded in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D., bringing drought to the Mill Creek people, and damp winters in western Europe, what happened in other parts of the Northern...

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5. The Flow of Wine, Water, and Ice

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pp. 57-64

HAVE THE PAST 1,000 years seen a climate essentially constant, as some people claim, or have some times been significantly different from others-not just varying from year to year, but with prolonged periods especially favorable or unfavorable to established...

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6. The Past 1,000 Years: Europe, the North Atlantic, the United States

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pp. 65-92

AS WE LOOK AT FACTS about the past 1.000 years, the component of climate to which we will pay most attention is temperature. Yearly average temperatures are a better indication of climatic changes than precipitation or other aspects of climate. While...

III: The Monsoons Fail

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7. Death in the Sahel

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pp. 95-106

IN THE LATE 1960, the outside world began to notice the Sahara's desert climate creeping southward into the Sahel, the semidry region half the size of the United States that lies across six African nations (figure 7.1). Through 1973, the: 20 million people there suffered a drought that destroyed their pasturelands and their grains,...

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8. A Manmade Desert

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pp. 107-114

IN THE INDUS RIVER region of eastern Pakistan and northwestern India, now also called the Rajputana desert, an early agricultural civilization arose 2,500 years before Christ. Two other river-based cultures of the ancient world, those of the Nile and the ...

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9. The Enduring Problem

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pp. 115-119

MIllIONS OF LIVES are at stake in the monsoon lands, and many theories have been offered to explain the reasons for and possibility of drought there. In the preceding chapters we have described how an expansion of the westerlies can hold the monsoons south,...

IV: A Perspective on Climatic Change

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10. In the Beginning

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pp. 123-132

MAN AND NATURE both have left records of climatic change over the past 4,000 years. We have used these records to describe what a changing climate did to people of the Indus valley, Mycenae, Mill Creek, Greenland, and the Sahel-examples especially pertinent...

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11. How Climate Changes

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pp. 133-142

ALL THOSE CLIMATIC changes we described in the lst chapter, and in other parts of this book, have some cause-or causes. The formation of continental glaciers, thousands of feet thick and thousands of miles wide and long, is a response to some physical...

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12. Pollutants in the Air

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pp. 143-152

...amount of sun energy the earth receives, or which can change where sun energy is concentrated, will affect the westerlies and will there Dust and other substances can alter the atmosphere rapidly: within a human generation or less they can change climates significantly (Bryson and Dittberner, 1976). In a world where a change in our ...

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13. The Lessons of Climatic History

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pp. 153-156

...land and the monsoon lands, because what has happened to climate First and most important, we know that climate is not fixed. On a long time scale, it has varied from glacial, with vast continental glaciers, to nonglacial times like the past 10,000 years. Climatic changes on the scale of centuries or decades have also produced ...


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pp. 159-164


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pp. 165-171

E-ISBN-13: 9780299073732
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299073749

Publication Year: 1977