Global Warming And Social Evolution
I want to first point out that I believe that global warming involves two different aspects; The first is that it is a natural process, that, along with its opposite, global cooling, has occurred many times in the life of our planet. The second point is, that even if warming is natural, human activity is greatly exacerbating this trend, and prudence, (a good old fashioned, but long forgotten conservative virtue) should force us to do something to abate the problem. That said, I would like to examine the relationship between global warming and human social evolution.
Millions of years ago the savannah areas of East Africa began to dry due to warming. This forced our primate ancestors to descend from the trees and become bipedal, tool-using proto-humans. These proto humans, about one and a half million years ago, left Africa and expanded into Asia. They may well have done so because of climate change. More than 200,000 years ago, our people, Homo Sapiens developed, once again in Africa and at some point crossed over into Europe and Asia. Perhaps again, climate change was the push.
Then we had the long Ice Ages. After that, about 12,000 years ago, the world began to heat up again. The ice melted and vast areas of the world, most importantly the rich coastal plains, were flooded, giving rise to the universal legend of The Flood. About the same time the great prehistoric animals like the mammoth disappeared. The people, now crammed into a smaller land mass sought other means of food production, so horticulture, agriculture and domestication of animals progressed.
Global warming leveled off and a moist period ensued. This was ideal for the neolithic farmers who prospered, multiplied and built large villages. These peasants continued the egalitarian practices they had inherited from their paleolithic ancestors. Such was the situation in Eastern Europe. The Sahara at this time was not a desert, but a series of large lakes or shallow inland seas which supported fishing and farming communities. Herders roamed the plains and savanahs.
Then 6000 years ago the climate warmed radically, and was to do so, in an undulating pattern, for the following 2000 years. The result was devastating for the people on the plains and the Sahara Lakes. These areas quickly became deserts and the people fled en mass to the lush valleys where they conquered the farmers. The conquering minority became the Masters, the conquered, the Serfs, and thus class society was born. In order to maintain this inequality and to extract taxes and forced labour, the Masters needed to terrorize the conquered through a permanent military force. Thus the State was born. This was a disaster for the vast majority of humanity. Most of the suffering that was to follow, up to and including the present; the wars, enslavements, famines and genocidal conquests, have their origins in these horrific events, the climate-induced birth of class and state.
For the next 4000 years, the climate would cycle between warmer and colder periods, but generally with more of an emphasis on the colder. Some civilizations would rise and fall with the swings of the climate. The warming trend that enabled the Vikings to settle Greenland, destroyed the Anasazi of New Mexico and the Tiahuanacans of Bolivia. The Mini-Ice Age beginning about 1300 made the marginal lands of Europe unproductive and helped precipitate the Black Death. The world remained in cool mode until the 20ieth Century.
Now the cycle has shifted to the warming trend. In the meantime, over the last 200 years class division and the state have created a wasteful, unsustainable economy that greately exacerbates the warming tendency. The authoritarian system, born from global warming, is creating the conditions to destroy itself, ironically through global warming.
What next? One means to curtail the warming trend would be to shift to an economy that was human scale, decentralized, did not depend upon warfare – that ultimate polluter – nor a lot of wasteful long-distance carriers. This would mean the break up of that class divided, hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Put simply, state and class got us into this mess, state and class have to go so we can clean up the mess. Climate change may be the quite literal "hot house" of our next stage of social evolution!