Humanity might not have the same effective power over the environment when fossil fuels run out. While this assumption is certainly believable, humans will not doubt reach a point where the greenhouse gas absorbing plants and bodies will no longer be able to keep up with human activity. This will further exacerbate the problem of human-caused global climate change. On the other hand, if humans are able to develop non-fossil fuel alternatives that do not have a negative effect on the environment on a global scale, the warming trend might very well be reversed in a generation or two. Either way, Ruddiman's arguments will likely be proven to be wrong or right, on a long enough timeframe.
Section IV: Opposing Points-of-View
Anthropologists, specifically, disagree with Ruddiman. Since the author himself is not an anthropology professor and admittedly has very little experience in this field, it would only seem natural that this specific type of academic opposition could in fact be the most damaging to Ruddiman's theories. Anthropologists argue that there were not enough humans on the planet, even a few millennia ago to ever have exacted enough change to avert a global ice age (Silver, 1992). In fact, many of these same anthropologists point out that the human population was relatively small and consistent from about 30,000 years ago all the way up until just a couple thousand years ago. Many anthropologists and archaeologists believe that these humans even experienced the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago, when the glacial maximum was reached (Morgan, 2009). Ruddiman's position that humans in fact changed the landscape and atmosphere in the ancient world is quite convincing. And while this may be somewhat true, the same anthropologists who argue against Ruddiman initially also argue that the sum of all human activity, even over the past few thousand years relative to agricultural activity could not have been significant enough to avert an ice age.
Both Morgan (2009) and Silver (1992) posit that global warming is occurring, but for different reasons than what Ruddiman argues. These other authors argue that human activity, especially within the past 200 years, or since the industrial revolution, has contributed greatly to global warming. These authors also feel that fossil fuel dependency is the lynchpin that holds the entire warming argument together. While Ruddiman has other theories, he loosely agrees with Silver and Morgan. These authors however do not attribute the activities of ancient humans as a cause of the recent rise ion global temperatures, and position themselves definitive on the environmentalist side of the argument. When Ruddiman's arguments are compared to author Bast's (2010), the difference is even more compelling. Bast argues against global climate change altogether, instead relying on the pseudo-science version of atmospheric change associated with Earth's cycles. There is little comparison between the academic credibility of a person like Ruddiman and Joseph Bast. Bast's article denying the existence of global warming is devoid of real science. At least Ruddiman agrees that there is a pattern occurring, he just has some varying and somewhat controversial theories as to why it is occurring. The Allen, et. al. (2009) article deals with competing theories relative to global warming. Most scientists take the more common path of defining global warming as a human induced phenomenon. However, they fail to use the same research methods as Ruddiman, and also fail to make any meaningful connection between the aversion of the last ice age, global warming today, and the activities and choices of earlier human civilizations. The only major connection between ancient human activity and the current global warming trend that was made by these authors that Ruddiman failed to see was the fact that many ancient civilizations used forest and brush clearing to hunt and make room for crops (Turner, 2006). Ruddiman attributes the plow's existence to the ancient human's influence on the atmosphere, rather than these very well-documented and well-studied burnings. Certainly burning down an entire forest would generate more greenhouse gasses over a shorter period of time than a plow would, through indirect and artificial landscape changes over longer periods of time.
Section V: Synthesis and Evaluation
Ruddiman's arguments hold weight, at least as far as his methodology and ice core samples are concerned. But it is difficult to assign so much influence to the activities of a relatively small ancient human population, as Ruddiman describes. But his should not entirely be thrown out. Science is an ever-changing field and theories are just that, theories. Ruddiman has made some very insightful connections between human activity that took place 8,000 years ago and the world today. I would present a more moderated model for the cause of the current global warming trend. Perhaps an approach that incorporates pieces of Ruddiman's and other author's arguments. It is much more likely that many different factors all played roles in creating the current global warming crisis that Earth is currently facing, and it is often very imprudent to blind one's self from other arguments entirely, refusing to recognize that perhaps other factors, such as the clearing and burning of forests as well as the agricultural development that occurred within ancient human civilizations, all helped play a role in the way the Earth's environment appears today. The black and white world that Ruddiman and others live in can be quite dangerous, at least academically. The ice core samples are hard to disprove, and Ruddiman effectively constructs his argument around this very concrete evidence.
Allen, Robert, Scott Seaman and John DeLascio. "Emerging Issues: Global Warming Claims and Coverage Issues." Defense Counsel Journal 76 (2009): 12-9. Web. 10 Apr. 2010. .
Bast, Joseph. "Eight Reasons Why 'Global Warming' is a Scam." The Heartland Institute. The Heartlander, Feb. 2003: n.pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2010.
Bert, Ray. Rev. Of Plows, Plagues, & Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate, by William F. Ruddiman. Civil Engineering 78 (2008): 73.
Morgan, Sally. Global Warming. New York: Heinemann, 2009. Print.
Ruddiman, William. (2005). Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate. Princeton University Press: New York.
Silver, Cheryl Simon. One Earth, One Future. Washington,…