It is hard to deny, although some still do, that the world and its climate is changing. Humans need to adapt their lifestyles to accommodate and even slow down these changes. The eruption of Tambora threw the world into an environmental crisis, which in turn became a humanitarian crisis. This relatively modern event of climate change is an example of what can become of society if the environment in which we live changes too rapidly. The aftermath of Tambora can help serve as learning tool for modern society to prepare for the climate change that we are experiencing. This is important, because the main lesson we can learn from this environmental disaster is that not preparing can be fatal.
Many governments pre-Tambora took a laissez-faire approach to the way they ruled. The welfare of the citizens was not their responsibility. However, the environmental and humanitarian disaster caused by Tambora showed the world that this method was not going to be accepted by the citizens any longer. It is during this time that the responsibilities of many rulers shifted to the welfare of the people. Although reluctant, government officials were forced to help their citizens after riots broke out and it became hard to ignore the starvation and disease that plagued their communities. Modern governments now have the responsibility of taking care of their people. However, as we have seen, in such dramatic conditions it becomes impossible to take care of everyone.
The Tambora period was described by Professor Wood as an “environmental refugee crisis” that caused people all over the world to abandon their homes in hopes of escaping starvation and disease. The modern world has constantly had a refugee crisis for various reasons, some environmental, many not. The world has become a “smaller” place due to globalization, colonization, and technology. The population has dramatically increased since Tambora. The world is not as capable as it once was for dramatic resettling of people. Adding another reason for people to flee their homes and search for a new one is something we cannot accommodate. This is why we must learn from the humanitarian crisis of Tambora and take preventative measures.
Professor Wood also laid out his three states of climate shock response: Creative Sympathy, Proto-Revolutionary Violence, and “Flight into Hell.” The Creative Sympathy state was the way people of high social class involved themselves in the suffering of those of the lower class. These were people who were able to still live comfortably while suffering occurred around them, but not too close to them. The works of Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and other literary celebrities of the time can be equated to the news sources that go in and report about the crisis, but do not offer any help. Acknowledging the suffering of those affected is an important first step, but often times that is the extent of efforts to help by the privileged. This is not an effective response. In order to deal with these issues, everyone needs to help and a plan needs to be formed. As Tambora has shown us, not preparing is simply not an option. We must learn from the past in order to be able to handle the effects of climate change.