August 31, 2016

Culture, Climate and Catastrophe

Tier 2 – Individuals and Societies (INDIV)
Prerequisites – None

Pyroclastic_flows_at_Mayon_VolcanoHow did extreme changes in climate effect past civilizations and how do we know? How are current changes in climate effecting the culture around us? … and how ‘catastrophic’ were geological events like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE or the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 CE? This course will take you on a journey around the world, through many different time periods to explore the diverse cultural impacts of climatic and geological catastrophe. We will examine evidence from ancient and modern texts, oral histories, art and the archaeological record along with a range of scientific evidence about past environments. We will consider the role of culture in shaping the way societies explain, manage and mitigate for catastrophic change; how the cultural record can be used to inform environmental reconstructions and; how cultural miss-management of natural resources can have catastrophic results. Example class topics: the Dust Bowl, Easter Island, Maya collapse, the Tambora Eruption, close encounters with comets, super eruptions, mega tsunami and the 4.2 kyr event.