Themes of History
A number of themes will emerge as we follow this story. I list the main ones here, with links to more detailed explanations of further links.
One of the themes which emerges from this story is that matter has spontaneously assembled itself into larger and more complex structures throughout history. The main steps were:
Evolution of Life linked to changes in Earth
The Earth is a constantly moving stage across which the pageant of life has slowly progressed. This website reveals how the Solar System, the Earth, the moving continents, the evolving oceans and changing climate have affected the evolution of life. The oceans and climate have, to some extent, been affected in their turn by life. We summarize these steps in the timeline of history.
James Lovelock proposed the controversial “Gaia hypothesis” which claimed that life has kept Earth in a state favorable to itself. However this idea was opposed by many scientists who pointed out, for example, the periods of mass extinction when huge numbers of living creatures died because of changes in the Earth.
Lovelock later modified his hypothesis into the “Gaia theory” which sees the Earth as a system in which the “evolution of organisms is tightly coupled to the evolution of their environment”, in agreement with the findings in this website.
Climate Change has shaped Human History
We often think of climate change and global warming is something new, but in fact the whole course of human history and indeed the history of our planet has been profoundly shaped by climate change. It is a prime example of the intimate link between life and the planet. The main links with human history include:
► New ways of life when the present warm period began 11 kya.
► The spread of nomads from the Russian steppe when the climate began to cool about 5000 years ago. This in turn led to widespread migrations of people.
► Finally by the year 1550 the climate had turned so cold that there was a little ice age which had widespread social consequences, producing famines which contributed to the French Revolution.
► The little ice age was brought to an end in about 1850, probably by the carbon dioxide emitted from burning wood and coal in the industrial revolution.
It is almost certain that climate change will continue to shape human history, and to some extent the future is in our hands.
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