My prime area of research was climatology, particularly how climate changes over time and the impact of those changes on human history and the human condition. Two factors were central to these studies and effectively define human history.
The first is water, a fact emphasized by a study done to mark the end of the 20th century to determine the 20 worst climate disasters of the 20th century. The majority were droughts with floods second. Drought is the biggest single climate threat to plants and animals. As a result, I ended up teaching a Water Resources course and serving on a variety of Boards and Commissions dealing with water conflicts.
The second factor was that a more complete understanding was achieved if you combine history and geography. You can study them separately, but until you combine them the understanding is limited. I developed the dictum that geography is the stage and history the play acted on that stage. This led to my teaching a course in Political Geography and provides the background for the analysis that follows. Prime Minister Mackenzie King illustrated the issues when he said that Canada’s problem is too much geography and not enough history. He was wrong. We have a lot of geography and history; the problem is most people know very little about either.
European colonial expansion, especially from England, began during the Elizabethan era. It was driven by declining temperatures as the world cooled from the warmth of the Medieval Warm Period to the cold of the Little Ice Age (Figure1).
The impact on food production was dramatic. To give one example, it is estimated that in fewer than 100 years, from approximately 1300 to 1400 over half of Scotland went out of food production. The Highland Clearances were not driven by the leaders, but they handled the impact atrociously. Figure 2 shows how the price of grain was affected in four European countries.
Church records for Finland show that two-thirds of the population starved to death in the winter of 1688. Jean Grove documented many of the details of the impact in her book The Little Ice Age.
Most of the people who fled from Scotland and England to North America were escaping the lack of opportunity and political control of feudalism. Most of the Founding Fathers came from that background as members of the middle-class. It is reasonable to argue that the American Revolution was a revolution of the English and Scottish middle class people who were finally able to challenge the feudal and monarchical system.
Trump’s election was a turning point in political history because it was the final stage of the American Revolution. The Revolution introduced two concepts unique to America that serve as the claim of American Exceptionalism. America is the only country in the world that has free speech and private ownership of land for every person as the primary commitments of their Constitution. They were so unique, important, and potentially threatened, that the Founding Fathers provided the second amendment for citizens to defend them. Of course, they also knew the greatest threat would come from their own government.
The final stage of the Revolution was access to information and only occurred in the last 20 years. Control of information is critical. Whenever a coup occurs, the primary goal is to seize the traditional forms of communications, the television and radio stations as well as the newspapers. They are also the agencies that communist governments control completely, but that has changed, but few realize the implications. In the US election, the Republicans complained about the open bias of the “mainstream media.” In fact, that term was coined because of the perceived bias. The problem is the Press or newspapers were always the protectors and promoters of the ruling elite. Consider the 1782 poem “Progress of Error” by William Cowper.
How shall I speak of thee or thy power address,
Thou God of our idolatry, the Press?
By thee religion, liberty and laws
Exert their influence and advance their cause;
By thee worse plagues than Pharaoh’s land befell,
Diffused, make earth the vestibule of Hell;
Thou fountain, at which drink the good and wise;
Thou ever-bubbling spring of endless lies;
Like Eden’s dead probationary tree,
Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.
Trump knows what Cowper meant by the line “thou ever-bubbling spring of endless lies.” All this changed with Brexit and the American election. For the first time in history, most of the people had access and input to a vast pool of information. The power elite lost control of information that allowed them to manipulate the system and the people. The people bypassed the mainstream media and accessed information from the Internet via blog sites and social media. It took a semblance of the current form in the 1980s; the Internet became global in the 1990s as it shifted from a government and academically controlled system to a global commercial operation.
The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own policies.
It is a reasonable summary that conveys the point that the Internet operates outside of government. The power of the Internet is a direct threat to the power elite, which is why some, like Barack Obama, want it under government control. His fears were compounded by the abject failure of the mainstream media to influence the outcome of the election. Despite all the efforts, the people ousted the elites in the Brexit referendum and US elections. But there was another important turning point in history occurring at the same time.
There is graffiti in the Roman city of Pompeii referring to an election. It says if we get rid of this bunch of scoundrels we just get another bunch of scoundrels. It is why at least 30 percent of the population never bother voting. Over the years, I sought to identify conditions under which the people got rid of the scoundrels. What triggered revolt?
It narrowed to two major conditions. The first, usually related to climate, was a failure of the food supply. The hostility between peasants and aristocracy was always and remains present in France. Extreme cold and wet conditions of the Little Ice Age caused two consecutive years of harvest failure in 1787 and 1788. The price of bread, the basic food supply, reportedly rose to 80 percent of a peasant’s income. It is not surprising that after another harsh winter in 1788 that they stormed the Bastille in June of 1789 and the Revolution was on. More recently, what Obama claimed was an Arab Spring of democracy with riots in Egypt that overthrew Hosni Mubarak’s government, were actually food riots.
The second reason people throw out the scoundrels is when they the message that the elite believes they are in power because of who they are. They forget, ignore, or even flaunt the fact they are in power despite the people. When Charles I of England practiced his father’s belief in the Divine Right of Kings, they cut his head off. In recent years in Europe and North America, we saw the creation of professional politicians – people who never held a job and usually when all else failed saw the opportunities. There are many examples on both sides of the political spectrum. Politics devolved into what US Senator Everett Dirksen summarized in his Three Laws of Politics, “1. Get elected. 2. Get re-elected. 3. Don’t get mad, get even.”
In the Brexit vote and the recent US election, the elites of the left and right campaigned as if most of the people were beneath contempt. Hillary Clinton said as much with her comment about “deplorables”. The Brexit campaigners and Trump ignored the elite of the left and right and appealed to the majority in the middle.
In many parts of the world, this shift was accompanied by people moving away from the tradition labels of socialist and conservative, Democrat and Republicans to identify with their region. For example, in Saskatchewan Brad Wall bypassed the political contradiction of people voting conservative at the Federal level and socialist at the Provincial level. He formed the Saskatchewan Party and swept into power. In Australia, Pauline Hansen did the same thing at the Federal level by forming the increasingly successful One Nation Party. It is reasonable to argue that Trump ran as a Republican, but was really running the American Party. Danielle Smith could have won Alberta if she had stayed with the Wild Rose Party, but, sadly, the elite of the right led by Preston Manning persuaded her to resign.
This shift to regional loyalties is indicative of another important feature of the Trump election. Trump reinforced it with his drive to reassert States Rights. It represents a rejection of the drive to globalization represented using global warming to achieve that goal. As Elaine Dewar wrote in her book Cloak of Green that unmasks the real agenda of Canadian environmentalists like David Suzuki, Elizabeth May, and Maurice Strong, that
Strong was using the U.N. as a platform to sell a global environment crisis and the Global Governance Agenda.
Whether you like Trump or not, his campaign and election represent a turning point in the human condition. It is reasonable to argue that the claim that humans were causing global warming in contradiction to the increasingly cooler weather people were experiencing, triggered a reaction. The people said you are lying to us about what is happening because you think we are too stupid to understand. We are rejecting you as academic and scientific elitist scoundrels of the left and right that you represent and are taking more control of our own destiny. We are reasserting Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words that it must be
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
If you want to see the difference, consider the fact that the unelected British House of Lords is threatening to reject Brexit. With access to and control of knowledge through the Internet, we witnessed the final stage of the American Revolution that complete those words American Exceptionalism. However, as John Adams warned,
“I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.”