Sunday, 24 September 2017


There are so many things we tend to take for granted and amongst the plethora of luxuries lies the freedom of the press. In the UK we are....... and I think "fortunate" is the word have a number of national media outlets, both written and televised, each offering it's own take on current affairs, latest movies, fashion and sport. Science, and archaeology in particular is not exempt either. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that The Guardian will offer a very different review of the latest scientific paper as opposed to..........let's say The Sun (just as an example). And yet this week ( well it will be last week now) I was seething at the total misrepresentation given by most mainstream media of a recently published paper. 

I shouldn't have been surprised, indeed I wasn't, but the futility of such prejudiced reporting was more than I could bear. In fact it was more than the lead author of the original paper, in Nature Geoscience, could tolerate as he felt forced to issue a ......very.......public clarification. 

   Confused? Then allow me to explain. Essentially the paper recognised that the predictive computer modelling relating to climate change and global warming (not the same thing) had flaws and that the situation might not be as dire as first predicted. To get the full picture I suggest you check out the original paper, but suffice to say that none of the mainstream media accurately reflected the reports findings. And yet, whilst we tittle tattle on such vagaries, the fact remains that there is little consensus on the extent of the problem and how best to tackle it. Perhaps this is where we, as archaeologists, can submit our two penneth ( dime, dinar, cent depending where you are). 

     I would do so, but it has already been done. And rather well to be honest. So I will not endeavour to compete or even comment, merely recommend. Many have discussed the role of archaeologists and the future of our civilisation. Jared Diamond's "Collapse" is an epic read, as is "Why the West rules......for now" by Ian Morris. Yet for something that hits twice as hard, confirms the very relevance of our discipline and can be read on the way to work (assuming you use public transport, if not....... at least wait until your coffee break) I have not found anything as profound and terrifying as this short essay by Oreskes and Conway. 

The year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognisable. Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and — finally — the disaster now known as the Great Collapse of 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order. Writing from the Second People's Republic of China on the 300th anniversary of the Great Collapse, a senior scholar presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment—the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies—failed to act, and so brought about the collapse of Western civilization.

     In this haunting, provocative work of science-based fiction, Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway imagine a world devastated by climate change. Dramatising the science in ways traditional non-fiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon combustion complex" that have turned the practice of science into political fodder. Based on sound scholarship and yet unafraid to speak boldly, this book provides a welcome moment of clarity amid the cacophony of climate change literature.

     Post Scriptum.

Having completed this article I checked the news, as is my wont. Imagine my surprise to find the latest satellite picture from Antartica  and a berg the size of Wales finally making clearwater. The full article, dated 22nd Sept, is available here:


Makes you think, does it not?