by Miguel Angel Omaña
Many are struggling to decipher what causes Climate Change in this world of ours. Scientists and politicians alike have their ideological thoughts about what is creating Climate Change. One thing that is at the core of the debate is how fast is happening in such a short time. What I’ve found is that there is evidence of it happening since many centuries even millenia ago in Ancient Mexico.
There are two major periods in Mexican history in which Climate Change appeared in Mexico way before fossil fuels. I focus on the years 600’s and 1200’s, but we can even bridge both periods into one huge period. Then there’s also a third period immediately after the Europeans began populating Central Mexico. I want to refer to the pre-hispanic periods because it may be more dramatic to see how Climate Change could have existed in a low-tech era.
The Fall of Teotihuacan.
It was the most powerful and influential city of the time perhaps in the entire Americas, although the era is more commonly associated with the Classical Maya nations. Climate Change studies focus on the disappearance of these nations, especially Tikal, Calakmul, and later Yucatan nations, but not on Teotihuacan. It would be as if people in the future would focus on a major catastrophe of our days in Paris or Tokyo and not New York City, for instance. Teotihuacan was the New York of that time — multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, with numerous embassies from various part of the known world, highly urban, sophisticated, and of course influential to the rest of the major capitals of the time in fashion and politics. So why not look at Teotihuacan.
Mysteriously Teotihuacan fell around the year 600 and after that Maya and Zapotec cities fell as well in an eerie domino effect. Climate Change scientists focus on the latter effects of this domino effect, and not on the beginning. Whatever destroyed Teotihuacan (or weakened it for a major political fallout) had to be related by climate. Why? Because Teotihuacan was not only described but painted in murals of its time as a paradise-like place with numerous trees, exotic animals, with abundance of water. Now, Teotihuacan is located in a dry (almost barren) environment that resembles more the deserts of the American Southwest than the pictures left to posterity by the native artists of the time. There is one word for this: desertification. And desertification is a symptom of today’s Climate Change.
This desertification process also appeared in Monte Alban, the capital of the Zapotecs, and at major Maya cities like Tikal and Calakmul. Once the so-called Classical cities fell, the process extended to Yucatec Maya cities, Western Mexico cities, until something dramatic happened in the northern Mexico and Southwestern US.
The rise of Xolotl the Great.
Xolotl became a powerful ruler only because he was the first of millions of refugees that migrated south to today’s Mexico City’s basin. What was he and many others fleeing from? Desertification, once again. Once a land with big cities like La Quemada in Zacatecas became dry, barren, and ultimately inadequate to live and harvest food. Entire nations fled, and were welcomed by Xolotl and his descendants. This people might very well be the first refugees produced by Climate Change — and we’re talking about mid thirteen to early fourteen century!
Chronicles written by natives and Spanish describe these people as wanderers looking for a hospitable land to live. Whatever pushed them from their ancestral lands in Northern Mexico and Southwest USA was so menacing and life-threatening that they needed to migrate and clutter the Mexico City basin. The last to arrive were the Mexica, later known to world history as the Aztecs, and they were so desperate that they even went and inhabit in a tiny island in the middle of the great Texcoco Lake.
Climate Change studies should focus in this time periods. Although human activity is suspected, we should not discard any cyclical behavior from our weather. Apparently the growth of cities and the need for resources are linked. But we should remember this was a low-tech civilization type, other factors may and should be accounted to. Still, to say Climate Change is recent or modern is a mistake. What we are certain is that Climate Change phenomenon is now global and perilous to our world.
If you’re interested about these times of migration and social changes it brought, you may enjoy my historical novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes based on true events.