Some years are more important than others. That’s just the way history works. 1945AD, 0AD, the ones where something so monumental to the way humans after will live happens that it gets put into a multiple choice test as the right answer in some high school kids history class. 1816, is not one of those years. However it’s a fascinating year to look at for study as it seems to offer 200 years on a remarkably similar situation in which the world was and currently is in environmental, societal, political, and historical contexts. Why is this?
Well as professor Wood pointed out the parallels between the world two hundred years ago and the world today is remarkable. The biggest threat to the way we live is environmental today, as it was in 1816 with the eruption of a volcano. Because of this, peoples have been displaced and threatened, find themselves refugees, and largely the political and intellectual debates of the time surround this. In 1816 a volcano erupted causing global temperatures to plunge and crop yields to plummet. In 2016, the industrial world set up by humans is causing global temperatures to rise, and extreme weather events, directly impacting the industrial world have caused destruction across the world. People, which is what these events really have to do with each other, are effected in the same way. The most vulnerable to these events, often the working class and impoverished suddenly have their lifestyle’s attacked; they are victims, forced from living their way into the life of refugees. Thus, the parallel is there, prof Wood urges us to learn from 1816 to try and handle our present day better.
Wood infers that the art of the day is our key to this. He examined Frankenstein as being perhaps the tale of a monster created by society. He pointed out the parallels between the way the monster is viewed in Shelly’s novel and the way refugees are looked at by people. He argues that the fear of otherness is what’s relevant about the story. His example is very well articulated and brings to thought a question for today. What does the art and rhetoric of this time say about the climate and the people affected by it? That is ultimately what Wood questioned.
This is a tough question for someone living in the year 2016 to answer completely. Certainly the upcoming election will tell us a great deal about what the collective mass feels about global warming and the refugees of war and weather. We can look at art, but it’s worth mentioning that it has taken a considerable amount of time for Shelley and Lord Byrons works to have been read critically like Wood does. Perhaps, a good place to start would be here on Mayflower Hill, or slightly down it more specifically with the Oak Fellow, Khalid Albaih, and his political art. The point is that the environment changes the course of human lives, and the place where we show that is in our art. Ultimately that is what taking a analytical look at the eruption of Tambora in 1816 tells us about today-that’s why it is a “Revolution”.