Monday, December 04, 2006

One of the good things about being a bookseller is that you occasionally run across forgotten little gems like The Climates of Hunger by Reid A. Bryson and Thomas J. Murray, published in that dim recess of history known as 1977. It's a lovely little book written by what we would today call "a top climatologist" and features expert, up-to-the-minute analysis of global climate trends, and finds that...

...dust accounts for perhaps 90 percent of the temperature variation, while carbon dioxide accounts for only about 3 percent.

Our conclusion is that the net effect of man's burning of fossil fuels, his slash-and-burn agriculture, and his other activities which produce both carbon dioxide and dust, is to reduce temperatures....During the twentieth century we have come to recognize that humans must be added to the list of forces that can change climates around the world.

I'm a big fan of the literature of "global cooling," a scientific belief which had its heyday in the mid-to-late 1970s; it's a literature that people react to today with either uncomfortable silence or howling delight, depending on one's political point of view. There is a now-infamous Newsweek article that conservatives love to reference, but there aren't many others readily available.

You can pretty much get the feeling of where the Bryson/Murray book is going from the first page of the book's prologue, which tells us solemnly that

The Soviet Union purchased 18,000,000 tons of grain from the United States in 1972 and another 12,000,000 tons in 1975....The Russian purchases were directly related to drought.

And here I find myself touching on another enthusiasm of mine: The literature of excuses for Communism. Because we need to be clear: The Russian purchases were much more directly related to Communism than they were to drought. You know, it's remarkable how these food-destroying natural disasters ONLY seem to occur in Communist countries and never in capitalist ones. Yes, we still have national disasters here in the capitalist world, but somehow they always seem to miss the food.

A current favorite in the genre is Zimbabwe, which recently blamed its entire most recent crop failure on a monkey.

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