I would like to begin by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Wood’s visit to Colby. I especially liked the fact that he unites so many different fields of study in his research. By bringing together science, geography, history, and other he makes his work relevant and appealing to many. Ever since being at Colby and taking so many interesting and varied classes, I have thought about if there is a way to unite them all and create more of an overlap between them. Evidently, Professor Wood has figured it out.
I found it interesting that Professor Wood opened his lecture by stating the year that Tambora erupted and then asking if anyone knew why that year was significant. Almost immediately, someone stated, “That was the year that Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo.” This got me thinking about how those who write history often have the greatest impact on how it is remembered. Even though Tambora was a massive eruption, it is not often remembered simply because the ones who wrote the history books, the Europeans, chose to focus on an event that occurred closer to home. Even though Tambora had a global impact, since its immediate effects were not felt by those writing the historical narrative, its importance has been overshadowed by other events. When reflecting on this, I thought to myself, “How much other ‘stuff’ did we miss over the course of the years simply by exhibiting a selection bias on what we chose to focus on. In other words, “How many other “Tamboras” are out there that nobody truly knows about but that had a significant impact on the world as we know it. Prior to this class, I had no idea about Tambora nor its impact, simply because it was never taught to me in any of my grade school classes.
The second thing I took away from the lecture were all of the effects of the disaster. While I anticipated the immediate effects of loss and destruction, I never could have imagined were the horrible atrocities that were subsequent effects of the eruption. For example, I could never imagine selling myself into slavery in order to stave off starvation or having to kill my own children to prevent them from starving. More interestingly, I had not thought about the secondary effects of a natural disaster. These are seemingly random and affect such a wide array of people. What I mean by that is, who would have thought that an Indonesian volcanic eruption would have impacted everything from migration patterns right here in Maine to the writing of a classic novel. While the effects of the volcano were both positive and negative, all had a profound impact on the world.