Mises Daily Articles
The Calumny against Columbus
Because there is no limit to the credulity of left-liberals we now have this — within a few years of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World all of the following happened:
- a plague killed 90 million indigenous people of the United States,
- which in turn led to the reforestation of North America,
- which in turn sucked a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere,
- which in turn started the Little Ice Age.
Yep, it was Columbus's fault.
The idea that there were about as many people living in North America at the time of the arrival of Columbus as there were at about the turn of the 19th into the 20th century is simply ridiculous.
In 1900, there were several cities with populations of more than a million, and dozens with populations of more than 100,000.
In order to feed those dwelling in these places and for other purposes, highways and railroads crisscrossed the country. To coordinate the economic activities of such a vast population required institutions of commerce and finance, in addition to this physical infrastructure.
Yet there is no archeological evidence of any city of more than 100,000 of the indigenous people of this country or anything like a road network; although, yes, there is archeological evidence of a few scattered large towns and some trails.
Nor was there any folklore of institutions, such as marketplaces and banks, needed by a vast economy, nor any folklore of a mass extinction.
Besides, the Vikings were in contact with the indigenous people of this country well before Christopher Columbus, and probably the Irish and Spanish as well, so that the dread diseases that befell the Europeans during the Dark Ages had already had opportunity to make their way across the Atlantic.
Even among the Europeans, the bubonic plaque is thought to have "only" wiped out one-third of the population, prior to the survivors developing a resistance to the disease, not anything like 90 percent fatalities.
The belief that North America suffered a mass extinction is simply a matter of politically correct multiculturalism. And, now, it has become grafted onto belief in anthropological global warming (AGW).
Of course, the irony of the ridiculous idea that Columbus caused the Little Ice Age is that, until it became utterly crazy for anybody to deny natural variation and to continue to insist upon the hockey-stick theory of climate change (that global temperature had been constant for more than a thousand years but, with the start of the Industrial Revolution, has been trending up), the AGWers were claiming there was no Little Ice Age, that the fall in temperature that was recorded by Europeans at that time was merely a local phenomenon.
The hockey stick, we now know, was constructed by so-called scientists who fudged the numbers. Oh, not that what they did was an ethical violation, said the faculty at Penn State University, as fudging the numbers must be AOK among leftists.
But long before we found out how the hockey stick got made, we were finding out from several dozen other proxies for temperature that temperatures around the world were fluctuating during the thousand years prior to the Industrial Revolution. So even if we never found out exactly how the hockey stick was constructed, we knew something was wrong with it.
The way the so-called scientists discovered that Christopher Columbus caused the Little Ice Age is this: they discovered charcoal remains suggesting that certain indigenous people cleared farm land by burning off trees. Well, duh?
Then (presuming that 90 million people subsisted on farms cleared by this method, and that those people died because of the Columbus plague) an area the size of California became reforested. This would have lowered global temperature by several degrees and resulted in the Little Ice Age.
Thus, the proof that Columbus started the Little Ice Age is based on the belief in the Columbus plague wiping out 90 million people combined with a belief that 90 million people lived on little, self-sufficient farms cleared by burning away trees, worked by stone tools, without the aid of work animals such as horses, and without coordination with others as would require roads, written language, marketplaces, and banking.
Just how totally ignorant of economics are these climatologists anyway?
Among the problems of the new theory that Christopher Columbus started the Little Ice Age is that, considering all the data that have not been held back by uncooperative so-called scientists, the cooling trend of which the Little Ice Age was the nadir started hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Columbus in the Americas, at the end of the Roman warm period. But, who knows, maybe the AGWers will figure out the reforestation of Europe after Rome was sacked by the Goths is what caused the cooling trend that culminated in the Little Ice Age.
On the other hand, perhaps we should simply accept the idea that Columbus caused the Little Ice Age. Then we could construct a few nuclear power plants so as to desalinate ocean water and pipe the desalinated water into the interior of Texas to irrigate desert land that totals in size to California. In this way, we could simply offset our continued use of fossil fuel, sucking the CO2 out of the atmosphere instead of trying not to release any more CO2 into it.