Author: bcajus20

Climate Shock or Nah?

It was not until the lecture given by Gillen Wood that I learned about the year without a summer. This massive climate anomaly that occurred from 1816 affected a large portion of the world and yet I had not heard about it until today. Not to dismiss the intensity of the effects of this agricultural disaster, I feel that my lack of knowledge on the topic is reflective of our society. Professor Wood mentioned at the beginning of his presentation how the effects of the Tambora eruption were often dismissed by having no correlation to failing crops.  It made me wonder how such an important event in our environmental history could be brushed under the rug and dismissed as uncorrelated.  I then opened my phone and saw another reminding post on Facebook that Flint, Michigan, still does not have clean water! My lack of knowledge on the Tambora revolution echoes our society’s overall ignorance on many environmental issues today.

Focusing on the social effects of both the Tambora Revolution and the Flint water crisis, there is a large commonality with impacts of environmental disaster between class.  The effects of the year without a summer was felt by all classes, but some more than others. As mentioned during the lecture, the peasantry during the Tambora Revolution suffered the most because of their dependency on agricultural labor, which suffered the most from the temperature drops.  The flight into hell described by Prof Wood was mostly felt by the peasantry and there lies the class distinction. Those who tried to help the poor were criticized like Juliana de Krudener. She in response to a clergyman specifically makes the point that he does not know how bad it was for the peasantry because he along with the upper class did not have to deal with the impact of environmental disaster as gravely.  Relating back to the  Flint water crisis, this issue affects primarily a lower socioeconomic group of people. As with the exposure of the disaster in both cases, little is told about those who suffer the most from the hand of Mother Nature. The argument could be made that the reason for this environmental ignorance is related to who is affected the most. Without resources to recover let alone record the disaster, the aftermath seldom gets acknowledged both then and now.

In comparison, our lack of climate shock, to me is more frightening than the environmental disasters were facing today. I think with our scientific and technological advancement, we are less susceptible to complete upturning seen with the aftermath of the Tambora Revolution. However, this also blinds us from the degree of disaster we are facing. It makes it easier for us to move on from seemingly little climate issues and disregard it. Before we know it all the oil that we disregard that is still in the gulf of mexico will creep us on us when there is no fish to eat. I think that looking at this event helps stress the importance of interconnection as well as awareness of our current problems.

Which Scientific Revolution?

The reputation that “The Scientific Revolution” holds far surpasses its actual revolutions. As Dr. Cohen stressed, the importance of it was not how scientific or revolutionary it was, but rather that it represented a possibility for what science could be. ” The Scientific Revolution” serves as a metaphor for future advancements in science.

This is powerful as we live in a world of symbolic thought. Hearing the great works and theories created by Newton and Copernicus inspires present day scientists to achieve that level of achievement attributed to these scientists. Though , as Dr. Cohen pointed out, the revolution was not as scientific as it claims. Certain ideas would be completely disregarded under modern standards of science.   That takes us to how the idea that even back then, in the medieval period, there was a community of those who looked at the world and wanted to explain things that many accepted to be true. This is testament to our ingrained human ability to question, think, and find answers for ourselves. Yet again, as Dr. Cohen emphasizes again, this use of the word revolutionary was just set as a distinction for modernists to separate themselves from “medievalists”.  So as nice as the idea of the scientific revolution” sounds, it only serves purpose in history as a marker for a change in thought. Interestingly enough, the only examples provided for “The Scientific Revolution” were all centered in Europe and on christian, European, men.

If modernists really wanted to create a distinction between the science done today and that in the medieval period, shouldn’t all the great scientists be mentioned? This includes those from the Islamic world. I mean, this, to me, seems like the ultimate gap; how a completely different culture then that usually  mentioned in Western textbooks largely contributed to what we claim to be a scientific revolution.

The contributions made by the Islamic World to science still have lasting presence with us today just as that of the acclaimed Scientific Revolution. Some major contributions were made in areas such as mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. A wide range of cultures from the Islamic world contributed to science including Arabs, Moors, Persians, and Assyrians.  Science was regarded highly in Islamic society although it often went against Islamic teachings. It encompassed a large school of both philosophy and natural sciences. I think that this inclusion of philosophy in the Islamic sciences allowed for these advancements to be made. There is large similarity between the science designated to Europe and the Islamic world. Both sciences made a way for the scientific method and experimental sciences to be furthered today.

We have this habit of picking and choosing what gets fed to students about history that undermines and devalues the actual events that took place.  It is good to learn that “The Scientific Revolution” was neither really revolutionary nor scientific and that it simply cultivated the opportunity for a wider school of thought in science to be developed. However to narrow it down to only European contributions is demeaning to the imperative contributions made by others. When looking at such events like a scientific revolution, a holistic view is key in truly using “The Scientific Revolution” as the metaphor it claims to be.