Civilization and Climate

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Civilization and Climate (26:00)
Item# 2403

Changing climate probably played the decisive role in drawing hominids out of the trees, up on their hind legs, and off in search of food whose supply had been dispersed by the replacement of rainforests by grasslands. Migrations were motivated by the search for food; during ice ages, when sea levels dropped, new areas became accessible and populations spread. Links between climatic changes and emerging civilizations have also been postulated; the collapse of civilizations confronted with climatic challenges to which they could not or would not adapt is clearly documented: the Indus River civilization, the Viking settlement in Greenland, even the French Revolution. And Hitler’s disastrous decision to invade Russia in 1941 was apparently based on inaccurate weather forecasting! (26 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (9)

1. Humankind's Relationship with Climate (01:51)
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Humankind used to be at the mercy of Earth's climate; now the climate might be at the mercy of humankind. The dried-up Aral Sea serves as a grim lesson on man's power to change the climate.

2. Climate and Evolution (02:59)

Climate has influenced every stage of human evolution. The appearance of hominids and the development of bipedalism seem to coincide with climatic and environmental changes that occurred as stretches of African rainforests became savannas.

3. Climate and Human Migration (02:18)

As early humans trekked northward out of Africa they encountered a colder, harsher climate. Falling seas and land bridges of ice enabled humans to migrate to Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

4. The Birth of Civilization (02:12)

The first high cultures began to develop at the end of the last ice ages. Some scientists believe there is a strong link between changing climates and emergence of the first civilizations.

5. Adapt to Climate Change or Perish (04:08)

Societies that have thrived in extreme environments have failed during periods of climate change. Vikings survived in Greenland for over 400 years but perished because they were unable to adapt as the climate grew harsh during the Little Ice Age.

6. The Potato Famine and Irish Migration (02:29)

About 40 million Americans trace their ancestry to Ireland, a number ten times greater than the population of Ireland today. Climate changes encouraged the potato blight that caused Ireland's potato famine and widespread Irish migration to North America.

7. Bad Weather and the French Revolution (01:05)

Bad weather and bad harvests may have helped change the course of French history during the revolution of 1789. Record high wheat prices contributed to unrest that led to the storming of the Bastille and the fall of Louis XVI.

8. Weather Helps Stop Hitler (05:50)

Adolf Hitler planned on a quick invasion and victory in Russia. Inaccurate weather forecasts by senior Nazi meteorologists may have contributed to Hitler's failed plans for conquering Russia and dominating the world.

9. The Butterfly Effect (03:16)

The complexity of Earth's atmosphere has confounded weather forecasters for ages. The butterfly effect makes accurate, long-range weather forecasting impossible even when using modern computer models.

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