The Maya are having a tough 2008. First, the mystery of the cool blue pigment they used in pottery was solved and then we found out that all kinds of Mayans were building temples to do those enlightened sacrifices they did. Everyone's been throwing out theories about the downfall of the Maya; hurricanes, overpopulation, disease, warfare, peasant revolt or (insert your favorite disaster here). Now they're getting the blame for civilization-ending climate change too. How so? They made big changes to their environment without having enough data, that's how. Scientific arrogance mixed with a royal mandate can be a bad thing. It's not a bad lesson for all of us. You may read the somewhat tilted verbage of this National Geographic article and assume that this only applies to big evil corporations - but Ma Nature is a sensitive gal. The wrong decisions based on fashionable data lead to even bigger problems - in their case, disease and war.
The data suggest that the combination of slash-and-burn agriculture and conversion of the wetlands induced local drought and turned up the thermostat.Well, they were trying to feed 60,000 people without a McDonald's in sight so it's understood they would try to get bold but did that read how I think it reads? The global warming-induced temperature change in an area holding 60,000 people was enough to kill them off? A drought makes sense but droughts are more commonly caused by things like overusing land and the resulting disasters from not having backup water sources. There were lots of droughts in the US in the last few hundred years but they weren't because of global warming, they were because it stopped raining. Now, if you've converted all your above ground water sources that help create underground ones and then a drought hits, you are in real trouble but you can't actually blame global warming for that. You have to blame the people who over-managed what they had. If this holds up, the Maya lesson is an important one. Their ecology did not collapse because of cars or light bulbs or CO2 emissions, they collapsed because they made nation-changing decisions without know what the results would be. That's a good lesson in any era. Mega-kudos to Marilyn L at the Newsvine Science Group for the find.