Tuesday 24 April 2018

Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests: The effects climate change and other natural phenomena have had on the lives of our ancestors (with examples from the British Isles)

I have written a new book that combines my training and expertise in Earth science (geology) with my experiences and research in genealogy.

Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests relates many examples of situations observed in nature – primarily from the British Isles, but applicable everywhere – to the lives of families who experienced or endured them during the past several centuries. Descriptions of many types of natural phenomena are presented along with numerous references to publications in which readers may find much more information as to their origin and impact on people.

A constant underlying theme runs through many major environmental transformations, influencing the number, timing and magnitude of events – climate change. Over thousands of years, the ebbs and flows of global climate have resulted in patterns of weather that significantly affected food production, shelter and employment, and with that, living conditions and basic survival.

Information presented will be of interest to those who want an introduction to the causes and effects of climate change. Family historians will gain knowledge about how such processes significantly affected generations of people during the past several centuries.

As the title suggests, the book summarizes different natural phenomena, the time periods in which they occurred and explanations of how people survived the particular tests imposed on them by Mother Nature. Among the subjects treated are:

·         Climate Change – what controls global transformations
·         Epochal Changes – how gradual altering of physical environments and human habitats occurring over generations affected living conditions and societal history
·         The Holocene Epoch – brief summaries of human and natural history of the last 10,000 years illustrating the frequency of alternating warm and cold periods and the commonality of their effects on societies
·         The Last Millennium – natural conditions during the last 1,000 years with an emphasis on the effects on people, communities and social systems
·         Slow-Developing Events – how such events as drought and famine, erosion of coastal margins, infilling of estuaries, shifts in river courses and volcanic activity affected living conditions and economies
·         Rapidly-Materializing Incidents – impacts on people and communities from disease, earthquakes, floods and storms 

In almost any scenario one can imagine involving people and communities in the past, elements of the physical environment have significantly impacted living conditions. Some natural events, such as climate change, have played out over centuries; others, including major storms or floods, have caused damage and death in just hours. Many incidents concerning natural phenomena have altered lives and livelihoods, disrupted normal activities and, in many instances, forced people to change their way of life or move. In many cases people moved in order to participate in major clean-up and repair projects, a large number of them eventually settling in those new locations.

Social and political events were often connected to natural changes. Famine, resulting from various natural events, over time caused upheaval and unrest among people. The outcomes of wars have been affected by physical or climatological conditions on the battlefields. Migration of families, on a local scale and involving whole communities began when people could no longer feed themselves in areas devastated by changes to the environment.

Mother Nature has constantly been testing humans with a variety of natural phenomena. Studies of family history are not complete without consideration of the environs in which our ancestors lived. Mostly only strong and resourceful people – or in some cases, the luckiest ones – lasted through the many alterations of their physical surroundings.

Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests is available from Unlock the Past and Gould Genealogy & History (Australia) in both print and PDF format.