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July 27, 2022

30000 Years in 30 Minutes: Climate Risk from an Archaeologist’s Perspective

Hear from Prof. Brian Fagan, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, as we dig up lessons in climate risk from the ancient world of our ancestors.

Humanity has been subject to extreme weather and natural climate change for millions of years, and we can trace its impacts back to even our most ancient civilizations. A recent revolution in climate archaeology offers us a window into the climate risk management practices of the past.

Just as contemporary risk management relies on historical data, ancient humans relied on the knowledge of their ancestors to deal with the risks of climate change. Although much of this ancient risk management tradition has been lost to time, powerful archaeological techniques allow us to piece together stories of how humanity has dealt with the social, economic, and political consequences of climate change over the last 30,000 years.

That’s why in today’s episode, we’ll explore the history of humanity’s relationship with climate change, including insights on:

  • What the past can teach us about risk management in the modern era;
  • How climate change has shaped (and sometimes devastated) human societies in the past;
  • And the scientific breakthroughs that have allowed archaeologists to bring this knowledge into the present.


Links from today’s discussion:

Speaker’s Bio(s)

Prof. Brian Fagan, Distinguished Emeritus Professor at the University of California

Brian is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Brian studied archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University, before spending seven years in East and Central Africa, where he became a pioneering scholar of African history.

A prolific author, many of Brian’s books explore the history of Earth’s climate, examining the impacts the environment has had on human civilization (and vice versa) since the dawn of time. These works include “Floods, Famines, and Emperors”, “The Little Ice Age”, “The Great Warming”, and the topic of today’s discussion, “Climate Chaos: Lessons on Survival from Our Ancestors,” which he co-authored with fellow archaeologist Dr. Nadia Durrani.

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