Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Glass Half Empty

The BBC carry this report this evening, on the "Drying up of Africa".

The notion that greenhouse gases, and only those that are man-made (!), have caused significant drying up of the Sahel region of North Africa is one I suggest is politically motivated. I have worked in the Sahel, specifically the mountainous areas of northern Tunisia, and it is certainly true that the area is drier now than it was a few thousand years ago. In Roman times the area supported a vigorous culture and was the scene of some critical wars that set the political future of the Mediterranean. Today what were Roman centers of excellence are now ruins for the occasional tour bus. Dougga (also spelled Thugga) comes to mind.

Until recently, most historians believed that the area dried up because the area was farmed to exhaustion. Now we blame greenhouse gases, specifically greenhouse gases emitted by people who don't live in the Sahel. It's so much easier to blame the "other" guys!

Other areas that have dried up include the original fertile crescent that was the cradle of mankind - the Garden of Eden no less. Generally, these early areas of civilization seem to have become exhausted and their populations have, where possible, moved on. That may be why the world's politicians are so worried - they don't want mass migrations (read immigrations). All the better to tackle climate change and keep these people where they are, don't you know?

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