The great agricultural tracts produced no grain,
The inundated tracts produced no fish,
The irrigated orchards produced neither syrup nor wine,
The gathered clouds did not rain, the masgurum did not grow.
At that time, one shekel’s worth of oil was only one-half quart,
One shekel’s worth of grain was only one-half quart. . . .
These sold at such prices in the markets of all the cities!
He who slept on the roof, died on the roof,
He who slept in the house, had no burial,
People were flailing at themselves from hunger.
That's from the "Curse of Akkad," a lament over the fall of the empire of Sargon the Great. It appears in Part II of a remarkable series of articles on global warming by Elizabeth Kolbert appearing now in the New Yorker. Kolbert has convinced me that global warming is real, caused by human factors, and of grave consequence.
I don't share the academy's visceral loathing of George Bush, but his administration has, in my opinion, fumbled badly on environmental policy. Here's hoping someone does something about it before 2100. Kolbert quotes one scientist:
“We may say that we’re more technologically able than earlier societies. But one thing about climate change is it’s potentially geopolitically destabilizing. And we’re not only more technologically able; we’re more technologically able destructively as well. I think it’s impossible to predict what will happen. I guess—though I won’t be around to see it—I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that by 2100 most things were destroyed.” He paused. “That’s sort of an extreme view.”
By the way, she quotes "The Curse of Akkad" because archaeologists working at Tell Leilan in Syria have theorized that climate change — a drought, to be specific — brought Sargon's 2nd millennium empire to an end.