Another gem from the August issue of Scientific American, a few pages after David Appell’s climate double-entendre titled “Stumbling Over Data“: it’s time now for Kate Wong’s “The Mysterious Downfall of the Neandertals“, given the pride of cover to discuss the most up-to-date theories about the disappearance of those “bygone humans” around 28,000 years ago.
Here’s a detail of one of the theories:
[…] the isotope data reveal that far from progressing steadily from mild to frigid, [between roughly 65,000 and 25,000 years] the climate became increasingly unstable heading into the last glacial maximum, swinging severely and abruptly. With that flux came profound ecological change: forests gave way to treeless grassland; reindeer replaced certain kinds of rhinoceroses. So rapid were these oscillations that over the course of an individual’s lifetime, all the plants and animals that a person had grown up with could vanish and be replaced with unfamiliar flora and fauna. And then, just as quickly, the environment could change back again. […]
What else goes extinct then with our barrel-chested, stocky-limbed cousins in the space of a few sentences? Let’s see: unprecedented climate change; global warming endangering polar bears; life on Earth threatened by wild climate swings; collapsing global ecosystems; disappearing coral reefs; upcoming biodiversity crisis; etc etc etc.
Not only that…if our direct ancestors’ “somewhat wider range of cultural adaptations provided a slightly superior buffer against hard times“, why would those characteristics fail us now, their direct descendants more than 280 centuries later?
Unless of course we force ouselves to admit that our forefathers were wiser than us, stuck as we are into asking our so-called leaders to stop the solar cycle, or elicit volcanic eruptions…