For a long time, climate change has always been an important topic. Especially in this presidential election, different groups represented different ideas on climate change. However, what is the science foundation of the study of climate science? How did people get to know about climate? Dr. Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science in MIT, provided us with some of methodologies in his lecture.
Before 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 impact on the world. I am very thankful to have been informed as I was introduced to something with as much significance as a genocide does in history. I am also grateful to have been introduced to Gillen’s way of teaching us about Tambora, he has written scientific history in connection to human affairs, a way he knew this information could reach many people. Thus, not only has Gillen helped to shine light on a world changing event, but also, a whole new way of engraining scientific history in all people, even those like me, who do not naturally gravitate to the sciences.
Tambora not only affected the people and climate in it’s immediate surroundings but all over the world due to its particles that spread when they dispersed into the stratosphere. The resulting climate shock caused sympathy and violence. As Wood informed us, Tambora caused communities to fall apart. In England, for example, there was a mentality of bread or blood. It was the1st demographic hit where agriculture could not be done. People had to go far to reach markets for food but some couldn’t even make it because of the condition they were in. The wholesale grain prices over the years shows the tragic shortage of food: (in the U.S). year 1815: 100, year 1816: 124, year 1817: 154, year 1818: 127, year 1819: 86, and year 1820: 59. In addition, to not see children suffer from starvation and other suffering mother’s would end the lives of their own children. According to Wood, in China, children were even sold and in Indonesia they were entered into slavery for the same reasons, because at least they would be fed. There is no question what a huge impact Tambora had on the world.
Thus, Wood had a big mission, to inform others about this historical moment that is more than science but also, a part of human’s history. He made this event significant and worthy to everyone with his book by showing us that Tambora has shaped who we are and our atmosphere in some way. This was particularly a new approach for me that I am very grateful for, I believe this is the way to reach people and make them care. Furthermore, through this mission he has also helped people think teleconnectedly. As Wood said, we miss a lot of our world unless we think this way. Everything is teleconnected, just look at what he has accomplished with connecting social systems and climate to Tambora. Wood has not only brought Tambora to our attention as a revolution, he has brought us a new approach that can get our world more involved with what is going in our atmosphere.
Think back to 1815 – what global events marked the year with particular importance? Political turmoil afflicted the globe with the Battle of Waterloo, and global rule was questioned with the defeat and overturn of French leader Napoleon Bonaparte. Does anything else come to mind? Unfortunately for most, the answer is no. But it is impossible to ignore the global effects of the eruption of the volcano Tambora in present-day Indonesia. Although the world has faced other volcanic eruptions in its history, there are none comparable to Tambora. As an environmental and epochal event, it is crucial to recognize and study the effects of Tambora environmentally, politically, and culturally.
“Hunger is their only thought, their only preoccupation” wrote Mary Shelley about the population of Switzerland after the eruption of Tambora. With 100,000 of the world’s 1 billion population having been killed by the far-reaching effects of the smoke and dust clouds, what was previously a natural disaster became a global environmental narrative with human natural impact. Often described as the “year with no summer”, or the “coldest summer in global history,” 1816 was truly a visualization of this. The nearly 5o C temperature decline and unrelenting rain left the already poor growth region of Switzerland even more disadvantaged. Europe struggled with food and water shortages, raising crop prices and sparking outrage and riots in many communities with food processes completely devastated. Mary Shelley writes of bakeries being looted and burned down by locals from outrage due to the lack of bread and high prices. Morality was in question as the rate of infanticide skyrocketed when mothers were forced to decide between killing their children or having them starve to death. This was a cross-cultural phenomenon experienced by culture globally, finding a strange commonality in a time of such crisis. This large-scale famine was not limited to Europe, nor was it limited to a food shortage. Epidemics and revolt plagued countries globally, and for the first time, national government responsibilities extended to citizens’ welfare, particularly in times of crisis. Previously this idea had yet to exist, especially in countries of British rule, but these calamities were too great for governments to leave their populations helpless. These crises: political, environmental, and economic, left the world in complete disarray – however it also promoted diversity and geographic shift (for better, or worse?) Populations without any resources, decimated by the impact of Tambora, migrated elsewhere in search of suitable life. While a large portion of the global population was eliminated, the genetic diversity was incredibly promoted through the mixing of a wide range of populations. Tambora was a world-changing event whose effects are unimaginable in the 21st century.