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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Genesis and Climate Change

My issue with Fundamentalists is that many of them don't bother to read for content and don't understand the fundamentals of their own religions. For example, Genesis, to me, is clearly a story about Climate Change. Reading Genesis in the context of archeology and climate history leads me to believe it's also about human influence on climate change's impact on humans. Whether humans cause climate change or "G-d" does is immaterial because the record shows that climate change, even as depicted in the Bible flows from human misbehavior.

Abraham, Isaac and Joseph in Egypt

For example the narratives in Genesis are driven by climate change. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all travel to Egypt periodically in the Narrative.

Abraham:

"{12:10} And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there" [I'm using KJ version but other versions same]

Isaac:

"{26:1} And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar."

The story of Genesis depicts people driven to seek a livelihood by climate change. Indeed one can make a case that Abraham left his homeland, probably for the same reasons that he later traveled to Egypt, because of climate change.

Now the archeological record shows that there had been some pretty impressive civilizations in Europe and the Middle East that actually collapsed around the time depicted in Genesis. One can blame a literal flood, or floods of human caused failures. Entire cities were built and abandoned from Britain to India. Cities and empires collapsed. There are some indications that climate change played a role there. Humans built complex irrigation systems that drew the salt out from the soil and gradually destroyed it's arability. Civilizations once existed and humans farmed lands where goats could barely graze and that turned into desert. The ancient Epic of Gilgamesh depicts a massive effort to deforest huge swaths of the middle east. We now know that removing forests dries out the "micro-climate" where the forest once stood. Humans did this over vast areas. This created a vicious cycle of climate degradation. Humans cut down forests in what is now Israel and Syria. They then farmed the land, but because it became drier eventually they had to abandon the farming. One reason for the cyclic beliefs of Hindus and others is that this became a cycle of growth and collapse. Archeologists find layered evidence of this as a cycle.

Storing Surplus

Of course the natural and human inputs into climate change feed on each other. Some human behavior can generate positive feedback and actually improve local climate. Some creates vicious circles. And some human changes get caught up in changes that have other causes; like the eruption of volcanoes, variegation in Solar Output, or the product of long cycles in ocean circulation. But to deny human input into climate change is silly. It's even in the bible. As is a narrative about what to do about it and the risks of doing so:

Joseph Enslaved the Hebrews

We store surplus to mitigate and deal with climate events that would otherwise be disasters. The story of Joseph in Genesis shows what happens when value is not stored. He interprets Pharaoh's Dream in Genesis 41:

"The dream of Pharaoh [is] one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he [is] about to do. {41:26} The seven good kine [are] seven years; and the seven good ears [are] seven years: the dream [is] one. {41:27} And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them [are] seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. {41:28} This [is] the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God [is] about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh. {41:29} Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: {41:30} And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; {41:31} And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it [shall be] very grievous. {41:32}" [KJ version]

Joseph then gets all his power under Pharoah by convincing Pharoah to store food and water against drought and crop failure. When the droughts occured people sold themselves into slavery to eat when the crops failed and the grass withered, including his own brothers. Indeed he narrative bears out that it was Joseph who Enslaved the Israelites, not Pharoah.

The whole of the bible can be interpreted as a tale of climate change and of human response to disease, drought and sudden changes. As well as a tale of humans acting like locusts or wolves. Those who deny climate change and claim their denial is based on the bible evidently haven't read it.

Notes:

The above is how we can use the power of the PaRDeS to interpret myth and fight the "Dueling Myths" Wars. Those advancing myths about climate change that it: "couldn't possibly be caused by man's behavior" are pushing a "dueling myth" aimed at science itself. Our intellectuals are so caught up in taking religious truth literally that they can't duel back because they don't believe enough in our national myths to embrace them and use them wisely. Dueling myths are narratives. And in the past our leaders understood this. Liars can use myths. And truth tellers need no reject the truths within myths to use them themselves.

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