The world changed by Winter

“New Dryas” and the Agricultural Revolution
In the process of studying the origin of human civilization, there are some coincidences among the world’s major civilizations, which surprised archaeologists. For example, most ancient human civilizations, including Mesopotamian civilization, ancient Egyptian civilization, ancient Indian civilization, and Chinese civilization, originally originated in areas near 30 degrees north latitude, and archaeological excavations have shown that these The first settlers of civilization ended their nomadic life around 10,000 years ago. Genetic traceability shows that humans began to try to domesticate livestock and grow rice at about the same time.

In other words, about 10,000 years ago, some of the human beings who were originally migrating suddenly “opened up”, and coincidentally, during this period, they gradually began to transition to the farming era. The question is, what is the opportunity for humans to do this? This problem has plagued archaeologists for a long time, and only recently has there been a general speculation-due to a sudden cold wave.

Fairywood is a plant that likes to live in cold regions at high latitudes, and is more common in the Arctic. However, in recent years, scientists have discovered that this kind of cold-loving plant has grown widely all over the world. They found fairy trees in the sedimentary layers of the European continent. This layer of deposited fairy trees appeared about 13,000 years ago, and the time span is very short, only about 1,000 years. Scientists speculate that about 12,900 years ago, there was a sudden drop in the earth’s temperature, which geologists called the “New Dryas Incident”.

The impact of that sudden temperature drop was huge. First, it may be the “last straw” that led to the extinction of mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and other ancient creatures. Secondly, it may also end the “golden age” when our ancestors lived a hunting and gathering life.

Counting from the “separation” of the Australopithecus and the chimpanzee, there are 5 to 7 million years ago. During most of this period, various ancient humans lived a life of gathering and hunting. When they finish eating in one place, they go to another place. This kind of life that can fill the stomach with less labor can not create civilization, but it can be considered as a nourishing life for ancient humans. From this perspective, it seems that there is no need for human beings to settle down and develop farming civilization.

Fairy wood

But with the “New Dryas Incident”, human activities were forced to take a completely different path. Various animals and plants are dying, and humans have to start looking for plants that they did not eat before and prey on some small animals. They began to eat a variety of plants, and eventually chose wheat, rice, and millet among these plants, and found that the seeds of these plants were edible. By chance, they discovered that burying seeds in the ground would grow new plants, so they buried more seeds in the ground and gradually learned how to cultivate crops. Finally, they learned to plant.

Due to the catastrophic and dramatic changes in the climate, humans began to learn to live a hard life. By chance, they caught a few wild boars and were reluctant to eat them all at once, and the rest were circled. Slowly, they discovered that breeding is also good, so the East and the West began to domesticate wild boars almost at the same time.

In this way, between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago, some humans changed their way of life forever. They settled in the 30-degree north latitude area where they could maintain a comfortable life in that cold age, and tried their best to cultivate these kinds of animals and plants to ensure their survival. In order to cope with the challenges brought about by the “New Dryas Incident”, they began a journey of exploration and progress, gradually transitioning from migrating to semi-settled farming lifestyles waiting to be harvested, and developing agriculture and animal husbandry. The birth of agriculture was a huge revolution in human history, and this revolution was called the “agricultural revolution” or “new stone revolution”.

“Little Ice Age” and the Industrial Revolution
If it is said that the relationship between the “New Dryas Incident” and the Agricultural Revolution is only a speculation due to the unsearchable historical data, then the relationship between the Industrial Revolution and another extreme cold weather is certain. This is the so-called ” Little Ice Age”.

The modern industrial revolution originated in Britain, largely due to the coal mining industry. The earliest steam engines not only burned coal, but also solved the problem of water pumping in coal mines. Although as early as the 9th century, there were records of monks burning coal for heating in England, but before the 17th century, most British people had no interest in coal. Because Britain has enough woodland, wood is the most favored fuel, whether in the fireplaces of wealthy people or the folk iron smelting workshops.

However, since the beginning of the 15th century, the global climate has entered a cold period, which is commonly referred to as the “little ice age.” The abnormal climate not only caused crop failures and famines, but also changed the historical course of many civilizations. Britain at a higher latitude seems to be more affected by the “little ice age”. The British not only have to endure the poor harvest, but also worry about heating in winter. The winter in Britain is extremely cold and long. Scholar Rudolf Lubert estimates that more than two-thirds of London’s wood supply during this period was used as heating fuel. At the same time, the United Kingdom, which pursues the strategy of “building a nation by sea,” also needs enough wood to make warships and use charcoal as fuel for iron smelting.

These demands led to the “timber crisis” in the UK in the 17th century. From 1500 to 1630, the price of firewood increased by 7 times, while the price of goods only increased by 3 times during the same period. As a result, the British were forced to turn to coal, a substitute for wood that was previously unsatisfactory.

Because of the high technical threshold, the British originally hated burning coal for heating. Many wineries, bakeries and upper-class families refuse to use coal because “coal destroys the taste of food and wine.”

However, in 1666, a large-scale fire broke out in London, and tens of thousands of wooden houses were burnt down, resulting in a further shortage of timber. In order to survive the severe winter, the British had to start mining coal for heating. The British government also introduced various measures to stimulate coal mining. In the end, these factors prompted Britain to complete the transition of fuel from wood to coal. In 1738, a French aristocrat who traveled to Britain discovered that unlike coal on the European continent, it was only a substitute. In Britain, coal has gradually replaced wood and charcoal, becoming the “soul of British manufacturing.”

Scenes from the Great Fire of London in 1666

It is precisely because of the thirst for coal that the British continue to dig down, even digging through the water. In order to solve the pumping problem, the original steam engine was invented. From the second half of the 18th century, steam power and equipment began to be used in the production field, and the industrial revolution finally began. It is the convenient transportation and higher thermal efficiency of coal that make this new device of steam engine be used as a source of power in most factories and mines. American historian Jerry Bentley believes that “without the simple means of mining coal, the economy at that time could not support the ever-expanding iron manufacturing and the application of steam engines, and these two industries were very important in the process of industrialization in the UK. “.

Is the climate getting warmer or colder
The continuous cold waves at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 seem to make the climate warming statement no longer true, but in fact, the frequent occurrence of cold waves is also affected by climate warming.

Studies have shown that the unusually cold climate in East Asia and other regions this winter is related to the unusually hot summer in the Arctic in 2020. In September 2020, the Arctic sea ice is abnormally low, the polar vortex is weakened and split, and it is difficult to “fix” the cold air. The vortex is biased towards Eurasia, the meridian circulation in the middle and high latitudes of Europe and Asia is “high in the west and low in the east” and the strong east Asian winter The wind has continued since December 2020, and this is conducive to the cold air going south. In other words, due to the warming of the climate, the polar vortex that originally hovered over the North Pole has become more and more unstable, and the frequent “out of the circle” this winter has affected us.

Due to the greenhouse effect, the earth’s climate is undergoing a new round of changes, and this winter has made us feel this. Fortunately, civilization is stronger than we thought. At least two times in history, human beings have suffered from “winter has come”, but after struggling and forging ahead, they have blazed a new path. So, will climate change make us experience a third upheaval?