A new study on the effects of climate crises in ancient Mesopotamia found increased cooperation and a more widespread distribution of power.
By April M. Short
The going assumption is that the impacts of climate disasters on institutions and economics will be negative. However, this is not always the case. Climate disasters can actually have the opposite effect, historically, as shown in a recent article about climate-related disasters in ancient Mesopotamia. The study found that climate-related tensions in effect forced greater cooperation and a more widespread distribution of power across social sectors.
The article, “Climate Change and State Evolution,” was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on April 6 and was authored by Carmine Guerriero from the University of Bologna in Italy and Giacomo Benati from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany. The authors note in the article’s abstract that prior literature on climate disasters in ancient societies focuses on “collapse archaeology,” and tends to correlate “severe droughts” with “institutional crises.” The article instead used a game theory approach to analyze a stream of papers that have been published in recent years on Bronze Age Mesopotamia that challenge this narrative.
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April M. Short is an editor, journalist and documentary editor and producer. She is a writing fellow at Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Previously, she served as a managing editor at AlterNet as well as an award-winning senior staff writer for Santa Cruz, California’s weekly newspaper. Her work has been published with the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Salon and many others.