63 Comments
Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

This is something I think about all the time. We craft a narrative to make climate change easier to understand, boiling it down to a simple cause and effect (even to the point of blaming the witches!), but in doing so we leave out all of the thousands of contributing factors that influence our ecology over thousands and even millions of years. Nothing is simple when it comes to the weather!

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Also, this was beautifully written—I loved how you built a story first, then fleshed it out with detail later!

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Thank you, it was important for me to keep the storytelling element since this is not a science article. Happy that it work and drew you in.

Thanks so much for your feedback, Elle. Always love reading from you. 💚

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Absolutely. Real craftsmanship here.

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Thank you, Terry! 🤗

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I agree.

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So true, Elle. Just scratching the surface one can see that humans played have always played an important role in altering the flora and fauna of this planet. At times it was a beneficial role, as when they help regreen the planet after the last ice age. Today, unfortunately, we're going in the opposite direction and doing a lot of harm on the way.

I believe that by learning more from our history we can better understand our present and shape our future. I also believe that we have to become more literate with regards to how this planet works at a systematic level. Only like this we can all contribute and take the right decisions for a better future.

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I did not know about the Little Ice Age. I knew most of the Christopher Columbus stuff, sadly. But I'm always glad to see people talking about it. And the theory of how indigenous peoples played a climate mitigation role (if I read that correctly) is new to me, though not really surprising? I can't really explain why, though.

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I don't know if I would call it climate mitigation as you didn't have the climate issues that you have today back then. What they did though, was amazing farming because they left us a wealth of food varieties that are more apt for a range of climate conditions. Unfortunately, the big pesticides company that also engineer GMO seeds today are on a mission to destroy this natural wealth of seeds. But this is something for another newsletter.

In any case, it seems like ancient farming changed the climate thousands of years ago and this is something that I Wille explore in my next article.

Thank you for reading and for four feedback, really appreciated! 💚

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Thank you for clarifying 😊

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You're welcome.

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Excellent essay, Claudia. While I did know most of this, it is great to have it presented so eloquently!

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Thank you, Alexander. I didn't know anything until 1.5 months ago. Did you learn about this ins school? Or was it just curiosity?

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

You've really done your research on this topic, Claudia - bravo! I'd heard about the Little Ice Age (the ice fairs on the Thames etc) but hadn't realised there were so many global interconnections at play.

You might be interested, on a different historical tack, in this recent study related to large mammal scarcity driving primitive hunting technology: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1000802

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Thank you for the article recommendation, Johnathan! I'm on the search for more books and articles about ancient civilizations, especially the ones we consider today 'primitive'. I'm fascinated by their relationship with nature.

I didn't learn anything about the ice age at school! This is a huge climate change event and it's apparently so well documented, that we can learn a lot about how societies react when the climate rebels. I'm currently reading 'Nature's Mutiny' by Philip Blom and it's eye opening.

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

For the Mayans it might have been long-term drought, but for the Inca and Aztec civilisations imported disease was probably the main factor. Here's another paper you might like on civilisation collapse theories: https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/files/publication/TheCollapseofCivilizations.pdf

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Thanks so much for the paper! I am definitely interested.

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This is definitely one of the best essays I've read on the subject. I've heard of all of these things, but I think the way you've set it out, so logically, and as Elle Griffin says, written so beautifully, sets it apart.

One question I've had, because this has been mooted, is do you think the present increases in temperature are part of a cycle spanning several hundred, if not thousands, of years? As you highlight in your article, there are several cycles of varying lengths, from decades to millennia.

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Thank you, Terry! Really appreciate the feedback!

From what I read, the current global warming is not part of a natural cycle. Theoretically, we should be heading to another ice age right now and the temperatures should be cooler. Also, since we started agriculture, we've been influencing the Earth's climate and this is something that I want to look at in my next article. I will also go into more detail why today's global warming is not part of a natural cycle.

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Oh, that's a shame 🤔

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Yep. It is.

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Agreed. And great question, Terry.

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Sadly, I must second what Claudia says. The current rates of global warming are not natural. They are caused by us humans burning fossil fuels at unprecedented rates. It's not a hoax or conspiracy, as so many keep insisting. We can see the shifts in both local and global weather patterns all around us, and they're deeply concerning. Just yesterday I heard a powerful, impassioned speech by a JPL/NASA scientist in New York (Climate Week is going on now) who came of his own accord. These are people who've been studying the patterns and trends for decades. IMHO they should be the ones our esteemed leaders should be listening to rather than corporate lobbyists...

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I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I was teaching students about this stuff in 1975. But I have read articles by scientists that suggest there may be long-term natural processes at play too.

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You are far and away ahead of most of us on this then Terry! Hats off! But yes, there absolutely are natural processes at play. It's not all on us. We'd give ourselves a little too much credit :)

The trouble is it's difficult to tease out exactly how much of it is caused by human activity, how is nature's own workings, and how much is a result of the two forces interacting, thus amplifying some effects and maybe not others. Thank heaven the aliens haven't gotten involved. At the end of the day, all that doesn't really matter—we can't go back in time and change things. All we can do now is move forward, adapt, and mitigate. And hopefully not do the same stupid things twice.

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sorry, I didn't mean it to sound like that. I agree with all the rest of your comment, Birgitte

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Well this just blew my mind... no I hadn't heard of the little ice age, much less about all the factors that went into it. When put plainly, of course it makes sense that such a sudden death of so many people would of course have global effects, even moreso when you know supposedly primitive cultures did not in fact merely exist on the land but also greatly altered it. So many grand narrative thoughts...

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I also didn't know about the Little Ice Age until 5 or 6 weeks ago. We definitely didn't learn about it in history class. It took me a month to research and write this article because the more I dug the more juicy the information became. I also went straight to research papers because I wanted to know more in depth what happened. All in all, just like you, I was blown away. In hindsight I also think that it makes sense that the death of so many people and the rewilding of so much land played a role. But it was very interesting to see it proved by scientist. Not everyone agrees with the findings of this paper yet but I hope that it will create more awareness of how humans alter this planet. Thanks for reading and for your comment, Peter. Always great reading from you! 🤗

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Mar 22Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

You are also having some fun with Midjourney? Stnning. Howw did you get him to look so good, maybe saring some prompts? Here is something wonderful: https://marshmallowlaserfeast.com/project/breathing-with-the-forest/

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Wow, what a cool project! Need to read more about it.

Yes, I’m using Midjourney. I wish I could do a better job but I’m too lazy to educate myself on prompts. For clarity I add ‘hyperrealistic, 8k, cover’ to all my prompts.

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Mar 22Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Do you know Graham Hancock's work? I think you would like it. For those of you in the US I would recommend America Before. His research is solid. He also has Underworld, Fingerprints of the Gods. And he writes fiction too. God of War, Entangled, all great books. A lot of solid research included in his fiction too. I have been following his work for 30 years. People were very unkind to him but now a lot of evidence of events he was imagining could have caused mass extinction etc, is coming forth and his work is getting the recognition it deserves. There was also a Netflix documentary ... I think it was called Ancient Apocalypse.

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Don’t know the author. I’ll check out his books. There’s a wave of utopian cli-fi with prompts for writers to imagine how they saved the world by a certain date in the very near future. The reality is that we haven’t made any progress toward bettering our situation. More cautionary tales are needed, paired with action. Happy to discover a new author.

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Mar 22Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

You are right, as always I feel each one of us does what one can to improve things. I have said this some where last night,but as i do not remember where I say it again as I am quite excited about it. I designed a "snakes and ladders" type of game to do school visits and get children to learn about the amazing , little creatures doing big jobs for us, in a fun way. That is my little contribution. Eight months of work. I hope the 3m x 3 m board arrives today, otherwise i will have to wait for next week. I really want to see it. It is big, printed on PVC so that the children can be the pins. Fun? right?!

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I love this! Teaching children about nature is so important. I actually think that we need to radically change our relationship with nature to truly make a dent in our fight against climate change. As long as we see nature only as a resource to exploit for economic gain it won’t be possible. You should be so proud of your work 👏

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Mar 22Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Thank you. Claudia you are kind. It is my little contribution. You are right again, if you love it, you will protect and respect it... well ideally...

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As regular citizens we can only do small contributions. In the end it’s a collective effort to change something. I don’t believe in heroes saving the day for all of us.

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Mar 12Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I had no idea about this, glad you brought this back to the surface this week!

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Thanks for reading, Brian. I had the same impression that many readers missed the climate series and I thought that it's good to make it more prominent.

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Mar 12Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Yeah! I think i subscribed after this series started, and I'm not great and going back and reviewing archives. I also thing its strange when someone just republishes the same essay they did in the past, but I like how you did the repost, with the overview of your newsletter and directing us back to the original essay. I may do that with a few of my poems that I published a year ago at some point. Or maybe after i get past year 1, a "best of year 1" newsletter.

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How many poems do you have? Why not create an anthology with an introduction and links to the poems? Maybe add some reader reviews? You could feature this anthology on your home page.

I started to think of my publication as a Netflix for writing. In the next weeks I'm going to play a bit around with my home page. Maybe we can exchange more tips in the future.

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Mar 12Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Would love to work on refining this alongside you! And I think that’s a great idea. I’ve published about 25 poems over the past year, and I love that idea! I was looking at Elle’s page after the session that she did for the 8 week challenge, and like her “index of everything written so far”, as something to pin to the top of the homepage.

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I've sent you a direct DM.

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It's part of French school history lesson, which I get to experience second hand (they did Louis XIV last year), but mostly part of research for my projects, mainly Spherean, Carter and TMWWD, all have elements of weather and cataclysmic events as part of the premise in one way or another. My Scrivener Research folder is bursting with articles, and curiosity is leading me down so many rabbit holes, before you know it the day has passed I haven't written a word but am enthralled reading about permafrost, methane reservoirs, ice ages, e.g. Younger Dryas, cause of climate reversals, impact of industrial revolution, and so forth. Then there's of course NASA, which is a bottomless well of information.

https://climate.nasa.gov/explore/ask-nasa-climate/2953/there-is-no-impending-mini-ice-age/ and https://climate.nasa.gov/extreme-weather/

Fascinating. And then I go and read up on stuff like X-Points (referenced in the last Chapter in Carter).

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Sep 18, 2023·edited Sep 18, 2023Author

True, your audio story was about climate change and it was chock full of deep climate science. How did I forget that?

Thanks for all the research avenues you've mentioned in your comment, those NASA link are already blinking: open me, open me! 😄 One of the most motivating things when writing fiction is the opportunity to go down the rabbit hole on interesting topics and learn. Then getting to use all this stuff creatively. I love it! You're a true example here with your love for research and thirst for learning!

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“How did I forget that?” Must be the narrator’s voice! 😅

Just curious really, asking why all the time...

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Sep 18, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Highly recommend the book 1491 by Charles Mann — not sure if you'd read that one Claudia, as part of your research? It goes into a lot of depth on the Conquest of the Americas (the land we live on was not discovered, as we've been taught, it was conquered and beaten into submission) that isn't taught in schools, including the fascinating immunological reasons for the massive casualties the native Americans suffered from European diseases. It's one of the best books I've read on the topic.

There is a great deal we don't learn in schools, and really should. It worries me that so many people commenting here had not heard about the Little Ice Age—that speaks the wrong kind of volume about our educational system. Then again, learning is a life-long affair, and I'm so glad for Substacks like this one.

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Hi Birgitte, thanks so much for reading and for your feedback! I love reading from you.

I didn't read 1491 as I focused mostly on the climate change aspect in this article and had to digest some climate research papers. Thanks so much for the recommendation, I'll add it to my every-growing Goodreads list. I can already think of a few climate topics for which it could be useful. Even as a research for my fiction. It is a shame that the narrative around 'discovering' the Americas is still full of misinformation.

I am one of the people who didn't know about the Little Ice Age until some weeks ago. This is what determined me to dive into the topic and write about it. After asking around at work, nobody else knew about it either. And I'm so surprised about how much we don't know about our past! Especially an episode of climate change that can inform us about what it is like to live with extreme climate conditions. More, the Europeans of the Little Ice Age had the rest of the world to hang onto for their survival. With our current form of climate change we won't have that. It's scary!

One of the things that keeps me going with this Substack is the fact that I'm motivated to learn lots of new things. It's really a blessing and after one year I feel like it's slowly changing my life. Thank you for the kind words! 💚

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Fantastic piece, Claudia. So well articulated, too.

I didn't know about this (or if I did it's long buried in my mind). I had no idea about the impact of destruction in The Americas. The thing that always gets me with looking back over data is the duality of the vast sense of time (hundreds of years of this creeping in) yet equally the tiny fleck of time that it is in Earth's history. The latter makes the human impact even more terrifying.

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Thank you, Nathan, always great reading from you! I was surprised to learn that the abandonment of agricultural land had an almost immediate effect on the climate. Within decades. It’s astonishing that we can have such a great influence on the natural systems of our planet. And scary.

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Truly astonishing and scary. It makes me want to be able to travel to the future (if humanity still existed) to see what would be said about the period of time we're currently living in.

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That would be an interesting trip though I wonder if you’d come back alive! 😅

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Haha 😆😬

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Can you imagine? I wish someone made a movie!

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

^you have the screenwriting ability/qualifications, yeah? 😉

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Sep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I did know about the Little Ice Age and even a little about how Native Americans burned large amounts of forest undergrowth every fall to encourage grazing animals and kill ticks and blackfly larvae. I've also seen some documentaries about new discoveries in how much of the Amazon basin was agricultural. I hadn't put it together, though. Excellent work!

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Thank you, Randall. If you want to read more in depth about the research I recommend having a look at this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277379118307261 It's a dense reading but it gives a full picture of how the information was collected and analysed.

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This was such an interesting read, Claudia. I honestly had no idea that the Little Ice Age ever happened. I'm not surprised about the human contribution to its onset, however. I feel like writers in particular are poised to grasp the idea of cause and effect in ways that non-writers might not be. When we create our own little worlds, and spend hours and hours within them, how can we not?

"If Character A does X to Character B, Y happens to Characters C and D, and Z happens to Characters E and F."

I think that in short is why I get so irritated when I meet people who truly don't believe that humans have played a role in climate at all. It isn't often that I meet them, I'll point out haha, but I just don't understand how a brain arrives at that.

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deletedSep 17, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra
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This is such a good perspective, Lindsey, we do need to look at the role we humans play within Earth's ecosystem and not see ourselves as separated from our environment. Unfortunately, with the advent of the Enlightenment that puts the human at the centre of everything and the scientific worldview, we came to believe that we have somehow 'overcome' nature and we can survive without it. Some people [ahem, rich Sillicon Valley tech bros] believe that if it all comes to worse on planet, our species will survive on spaceships in search for another planet to inhabit.

Beautiful that you're writing about reconnecting with our place in the ecosystem. I believe that the way we see nature is the single biggest hurdle on our path to creating a better future.

Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, it's food for thought.

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