It’s Not Just Nazca! Ankgor Downfall Tied to Water, Drought

Ta Prohm, Angkor / Photo: Robert Clark for National Geographic

A while ago, we told you how the ancient Nasca civilization of Peru (which created the famous Nazca Lines) fell because of bad water management. Just like the ancient builders of the Moai on Easter Island. Now, there is scientific evidence that a similar fate befell Angkor, the great religious city of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia.

It wasn’t their fault, though: this immense spiritual metropolis (pop. 1 million, the largest city in the world 1,000 years ago) was a “Hydraulic City” carefully designed to collect water – with miles of dikes, irrigation canals, reservoirs, and diverted rivers. Tree-ring analysis of immense banyans like the one above has shown, however, that even the most advanced schemes are under the thumb of Mother Nature. Two huge droughts (in the 13th-14th centuries and in the 15th-16th centuries) alternated with vicious monsoon backlashes. The combination destroyed the infrastructure. The full story is available at Discover Magazine‘s superb Not Exactly Rocket Science blog.

Water catastrophes didn’t completely seal Angkor’s fate – “by the time the droughts kicked in,” says Not Exactly Rocket Science, “the city was already weakened by social, economic and political strife.” It’s clear, though, that in the recent revelations about Easter Island, the Nazca, and Angkor as well, science is revealing history we need to learn: that social values and cultural practices, in combination with natural-resource management and climate, is what makes civilizations – and what breaks them too.


This Doesn’t Look Productive

MARIANNE LAVELLE & M.B. PELL write for Politico

The next round of the battle over climate change policy on Capitol Hill will involve more than the usual suspects — way more.

Watch soup makers face off against steel companies. Witness the folks who pump gas from the ground fight back against those who dig up rock. And watch the venture capitalists who have money riding on new technology try to gain advantage in a game that so far has been deftly controlled by the old machine.

An analysis of the latest federal records by the Center for Public Integrity shows that the overall number of businesses and groups lobbying on climate legislation has essentially held steady at about 1,160, thanks in part to a variety of interests that have left the fray. But a close look at the 140 or so interests that jumped into the debate for the first time in the third quarter shows a marked trend: Companies and organizations that feel they’ve been overlooked are fighting for a place at the table.

The amount of money involved quite likely rose as well. Although amounts spent on lobbying by issue are not disclosed, if the groups involved spent just 10 percent of their lobbying budgets on climate issues, they shelled out $30.5 million in the third quarter — up nearly 13 percent over the previous quarter.

Of course, the framework for climate change legislation developed by a trio of senators — Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman — already makes clear that the climate debate will expand into new realms. Incentives for nuclear power construction and more offshore oil and gas production are key proposals they’ve floated for gaining Republican and moderate Democratic votes for a climate change package. But beyond what are sure to be high-profile battles over those issues, the lobbying records also reveal that a host of smaller battles are brewing — sure to greatly complicate the already immense challenge of writing a successful bill. It’s one of the reasons that — despite the pledge by President Barack Obama and other world leaders to exhibit “strong political will” on climate — it most likely will be months before the Senate moves on a measure to curb fossil fuel emissions.

read more at Politico

Did They Do Anything?

The White House announced the deal – this is supposed to be a UN convention, remember – and President Obama has gone live on US television telling viewers what it contains before many delegations in the UN conference even had a chance to look at the text.

It’s not clear how those outside the little cabal of nations are going to play this.

The African Union is officially in favour so far, but they’re having a closed door meeting that I understand is lively, with Senegal among countries opposing.

I’ve been told that some of the small island developing states have been “told” to sign up, but others are fuming and determined to oppose – especially as their key demand, inclusion of at least the indication that the world could eventually look at 1.5C as a target for temperature rise, was excised at the last minute.

Ask who the “villain” is, and – as I mentioned in my previous post – “China, China, China” is the refrain.

But there is considerable anger towards the US, too, as I indicated before.

The fact that the EU hasn’t endorsed this “deal” yet it absolutely significant, as European leaders have until now been prepared to work with the US, though wishing it were in a position to pledge more.

Procedurally, there’s no precedent. Asked how things stood, one observer replied with a six-letter word unprintable on a BBC webpage – it begins with an f.

read more at the BBC