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Desert Diary
Climate/Benign Climate


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As civilization has gained the strength to affect the whole of planet Earth, we sometimes forget the unusual events that have made civilization possible. As information about past climates accumulates, it's becoming clearer and clearer that the conditions under which we thrive today have been rare. It appears, for example, that the climate during the last 430 thousand or so years has been as warm as at present only about 5 to 10% of the time. And in most of that span, mankind had not evolved to a level able to take advantage of a relatively benign environment.

Even during such somewhat pleasant conditions as we've enjoyed for the past few millennia, much of the world, including our Chihuahuan Desert, could support only a fraction of its present population. In fact, if we stop to think about it, our arid lands do not really support their people—it's only by the grace of the better-watered agricultural lands that we count our numbers in the millions rather than the tens of thousands. Let's hope the good weather continues!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.