Mayan Climate Change Essay

1499 Words6 Pages
In recent decades, the contentious issues surrounding climate change and the corresponding effects it likely exerts upon contemporary civilization has developed to become one of the most pressing areas of concern afflicting humanity (Armstrong, 1). Currently, climate change has started to demonstrate its potentially calamitous consequences upon human subsistence practices, and has even begun to alter the very environments that entire societies reside in, theoretically endangering them in both instances (Armstrong, 1). Though the hindrances inherent in climate change are potentially devastating to the preservation of modern society, the problem of climate change itself is not one that is exclusive to the contemporary era. Rather, the harmful…show more content…
Prior to the commencement of the ninth century CE, Mayan power reached its apex, culminating in what historians identify as the end of the Mayan Classical age; an era marked by vast prosperity (Wylie, 3). Before the apex of the Mayan Classical age, the Yucatan peninsula received high quantities of rainfall that contributed to significant agricultural yields, and consequently increased both the wealth and prosperity of Mayan society (Wylie, 3). Near the time of the Classical Mayan apex, however, historical climate records indicate that global temperatures witnessed a shift that led to a significant reduction in the amount of rainfall over southern Mesoamerica (Wylie, 4). The result of this change was devastating for Mayan civilization as it directly led to the beginning of a severe drought that would last sporadically for approximately two centuries, decimating the principal source of the Mayan civilization’s affluence in the process; agriculture (Armstrong,…show more content…
To sustain their large and ever expanding population, a populace that approximated 2 million inhabitants around the time of the prolonged drought’s commencement, the Mayan people employed an extensive array of agricultural practices that enabled them to amass wealth and food (Armstrong, 3). The Mayan people developed an extensive network of canals across the Yucatan peninsula to drain and elevate infertile wetlands to produce arable land that was previously inaccessible to them (Wylie, 8). Furthermore, the Mayan civilization employed slash and burn tactics to produce arable land that could be utilized for agricultural subsistence, contributing to extensive deforestation in the process (Wylie, 8). Although such agricultural practices effectively served the Mayan people before the shift of climate, primarily because the fertility of the land was refurbished by frequent and extensive rainfall, the droughts of the ninth and tenth centuries swiftly diminished necessary agrarian yields (Armstrong, 4). The environmental degradation brought about by Mayan agricultural practices amplified the consequences of the drought (Armstrong,
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