Tambora NASA imageGillen D’Arcy Wood, Langan Professor of Environmental Humanities (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Sept. 20 at 7:00 in Lovejoy 100

What happens when the world’s climate reaches a sudden tipping point?

This year marks the 200 th anniversary of the so-called “Year Without a Summer,” 1816, spawned by fallout from the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. During that global climate emergency, volcanic conditions disrupted monsoons in India that contributed to a devastating new strain of cholera, while crop failure and famine crippled nations from China to Western Europe to New England, precipitating food riots and the mass emigration of refugees. The extreme weather crisis also made waves in the world of art and literature, with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the most notable work of imagination to emerge from “The Year Without a Summer.”

This lecture, based on Wood’s award-winning Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World—the first book to present a comprehensive investigation of the environmental calamity of 1816—provides a gripping disaster narrative, with important lessons not only for historians and students, but also local communities and governments tasked with responding to today’s climate crisis.

Gillen D’Arcy Wood was born in Ballarat, Australia, and is currently the Langan Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Illinois. His recent book, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World (Princeton University Press 2014), reconstructs on a global scale the destructive climate deterioration arising from the massive eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, an event that spawned social breakdown, famine, and disease epidemics worldwide. Tambora has received global attention—from the Times, New Yorker, Economist, Wall Street Journal, and London Review of Books to the South China Morning Post, Shanghai Daily, and Japan Times—and was recognized in Book of the Year awards for 2014 by the Guardian, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and the American Society of Atmospheric Science Librarians. His new research focuses on how the discovery of the Antarctic continent in 1840 inspired Ice Age theory and the modern science of glaciology.

Student Discussions

  • The Eruption that Changed the World December 19, 2016 William ReynoldsAt this time In nature, our world is engaged in fighting one of the most important battles it has seen, the battle to save our planet from the dangers we ...
  • Tambora – The eruption that changed the world November 29, 2016 nranit20Following the first lecture, where, in my opinion, one of the most important takeaways was the fact that we should question even worldwide accepted “facts”, such as “The scientific revolution”, ...
  • Tambora and Selective History October 31, 2016 Matthew HoffmanAs much of the theme of this cycle focuses on revolutions, one of the most powerful takeaways for me was the prejudice and the influence of colonialism and power structures ...
  • Teleconnections? When Science and Sociology collide. October 29, 2016 Nicholas ArchibaldRecently Gillen D’Arcy Wood gave a lecture about the Tambora Volcano eruption of 1816 and the “year without a summer” that ensued. His lecture was unique for two reasons. First; ...
  • The Legacy of Tambora October 26, 2016 Jeremiah BurnsThe Tambora volcano eruption of 1815 is in many respects an extraordinary event in human history. On a small island in Southeast Asia, a volcanic eruption occurred on a scale ...
  • Interconnectedness: Weather and Historical Conditions October 10, 2016 Pedro CaballeroThe eruption of Tambora according to Professor Gillen D’Arcy Wood did not just create volatile conditions over three years for the region it originated in, but the eruption also significantly ...
  • The Emergence of Art as a Revolutionary Language October 3, 2016 Caitlin LawlorPolitical cartoonist, Khalid Albaih, employs the use of social media to express to spread revolutionary thought through nations with strict and oppressive censorship. Albaih views the internet and social ...
  • Climate Change: A Modern Tambora? September 29, 2016 Maya MeltsnerGillen Wood’s talk on some of the teleconnections caused by the eruption of the volcano Tambora in 1815 invited comparison between the global crisis following the eruption and the global ...
  • Tambora’s Significance to Us and the Teaching of Science September 28, 2016 Jaritza AbreuBefore Gillen Wood came to speak to us and before his book was introduced in the class, Weather, Climate, and Society. I had not known about Tambora and its significant ...
  • The lack of knowledge of non-anthropogenic power September 27, 2016 Reggie HuangFor years, humans have been influencing the natural world as one single species. With the creation of words such as “untouched nature,” we kind of distinguish ourselves from the environment ...