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Book and film reviews

Between earth and sky

Rowohlt, Berlin, 1980, ISBN 978-3-7371-0089-4

This book offers a kind of "Overall ecological history" and is a must-read for anyone who is seriously interested in ecological problems.
In contrast to the usual historical writings, the focus here is on ecology, on the multiple interactions between nature and human activity, but also on the dependence of humans on their environment.
This work begins in prehistoric times and then takes us through the history of human civilizations on all inhabited continents. It shows that almost everywhere where people have settled, nature has been treated in a similar, indifferent and ruthless way since time immemorial. Exceptions are found only occasionally among a few primitive peoples.
 However, since ancient times there have also been cries of warning against the overexploitation of natural resources, which have regularly gone unheard to the present day.
Natural disasters (epidemics, earthquakes, diseases, epidemics, solar activity, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes), Climate[i] (drought, heat, cold, lack of water) and Weather (precipitation, storms, drought, floods, storms, capricious weather), have had a decisive influence on developments and, for example, promoted the rise of great empires in favorable times, or initiated their collapse in times of catastrophe.
These are ecological disasters partly on human intervention (Population explosion[ii]soil sealing, deforestation, river straightening, overuse of arable land, pollution and destruction, salinization, etc.).
Warmer eras (such as the "Roman Warm Period") with sufficient rainfall were usually happier times. Colder Periods (such as the "Little Ice Age") brought crop failures and famine, which regularly destabilized the political situation.
The misfortune of one civilization then often offered opportunities for others.
Not to forget the Folly of those in powerwhich has created artificial environmental disasters, e.g. in China or the USSR.

Today, we usually still do not realize enough that all higher life on our planet depends on the life-friendly conditions that our planet has provided for many millions of years. For thousands of years, humans have put a strain on the life-sustaining natural cycles, which are now coming close to collapse due to the exponentially increasing loads.
Should natural cycles[iii] collapse due to human unreasonableness, it will be difficult or even impossible to restore tolerable conditions in the foreseeable future through technical measures.
Or must nature itself ensure that the most dangerous of all parasites (largely) disappears?

That Facit of the author of the book:
"Working on this book has taught me numerous lessons when it comes to how we conceptualize the world around us. But it has also made me realize that the deeper reason we are in such a perilous position today is because of entrenched trends that are deeply rooted in the past. As far back as our written sources go, people have always been concerned about the proper treatment of nature. And they have pointed out the dangers of over-exploitation of resources and long-term environmental damage. It could well be that we have now reached the point where we are finally becoming victims of our own success as a species. Perhaps the constant stress we have put our ecosystems under through our behavior has brought us to - or even beyond - the tipping point. What we can't say, however, is that we weren't warned."
(page 47).

Read also:
Under "Strange stories":
"When diseases made history"
Under "Ecology":
"The battle for the blue elixir of life"
"Why we are falling into the population trap"
"What apocalypse is coming?"
"How much we are overloading our planet"

In "Short, sweet, curious:
Page 110: "How the climate is making history"
Page 232: "How a volcano helped the bicycle on its way".


[i] "The term Climate refers to the totality of all weather events that occur over a longer period of time (years or decades) in a larger area." (Wikipedia).
Older definitions see climate as "the average weather over a period of at least three decades".

[ii] The most important cause - which is generally suppressed - of ecological, economic and political catastrophes is overpopulation, which has long since grown beyond all sustainable limits. (See "How many people can the earth take?" under "Ecology").
[ii] Water cycle, oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle, nutrient cycle in an ecosystem, etc.