The Tambora eruption was, according to Gillian Wood, a defining moment in the history of civilization. Unfortunately, this event is rarely talked about and not widely known. It seems that it has been pushed aside, that despite its significance it has never been at the forefront of public consciousness. One can draw parallels between this phenomenon and the current issue of climate change, as both have not been given the attention they deserve. This is ironic considering the cultural advancement that resulted from the Tambora crisis and that may result from climate change, as well as the discrepancy between urban and rural responses to these crises and the commentary this makes about society.
Devastation can often produce innovation. Woods cited multiple examples of social progress that occurred as a response to the Tambora eruption, including literary greatness such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Byron’s poetry, the invention of bicycles, and the advent of public works programs to aid the less fortunate. If, as Woods suggests, this event is comparable to today’s climate change crisis, it is worthwhile to consider cultural advancements arising in response to climate change. This does not excuse the devastation caused by climate change, nor do these results of Tambora pardon its severe impacts. However, scientists’ responses to climate change have included technological developments that may not have occurred otherwise. This is a cruel irony, because scientific progress is positive but not worth the destruction it owes its existence to.
Rural and urban areas respond to crises very differently due to varying available resources. Urban areas have sufficient media outlets and closely packed populations that facilitate a quick and thorough spread of information. Rural areas, conversely, have neither significant media attention nor high populations. In the case of Tambora, this is evident because urban areas were rife with food riots and violence, while rural areas seemed silent despite the fact that significant amounts people living there were starving to death. It must have seemed like the cities were the only places suffering, while the silent may have been in more pain. Today, we again think we hear about all climate change related suffering through media outlets, since media is so pervasive. However, there could be lower profile, perhaps geographically smaller areas suffering immensely that we simply do not know about, that media outlets have not even been aware of. We assume we know everything going on in the world, just like those during the Tambora era may have assumed they understood the desperation of the situation, though the extent of our knowledge is actually uncertain.
Progress resulting from crises often occurs in cities, where the impacts of the crisis are most concentrated. However, rural areas are often not aided in the face of a catastrophe because their strife is not heard. This, understandably, occurred during the Tambora eruption due to the lack of technology available to inform the masses of their situation. However, today it is easy to assume we are aware of all suffering, when we may not be. Therefore, while it is undeniably important to aid specific areas suffering due to climate change, we must also address the problem in its entirety. There are silent sufferers, whether they be humans or an obscure animal species. We still must help those we cannot hear.