Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Letter to New Scientist

Regarding their published article "Rainfall Records Could Warn of War". 

Basically this was a confirmation of a part of my Saharasia findings as made in the early 1980s.

But unlikely they will print the letter, so following is the full text.


Dear Editors,

Thank you for publishing the article "Rainfall records could warn of war" by Jim Giles, in your issue #2606 of 2 June 2007, but in fact this is not any "new" finding.  In the early 1980s, I produced what was then (and probably still is) the most comprehensive global cross-cultural and geographically-explicit analysis of human social violence and war, with an examination of prevailing climate conditions for the 1170 different societies evaluated in my study. World maps were made of various social factors, and contrasted to known climate types.  I used a collection of variables as established by the anthropologists and psychologists, on violence towards children and women, measures of social hierarchy demanding violence for their enforcement such as slavery and castes and low-status for women, the presence of violent sexual mutilations directed at children and women, arranged marriage and male-dominance considerations, the existence of violence-advocating High Gods, and similar factors which usually are "overlooked" by those interested mainly in guns, bombs and tanks, but which reasoned opinion suggests are the foundations upon which the latter and more obvious forms of social violence and warfare spring forth. 

What was most unusual in the findings was, that the most extremely violent "armored patristic" cultures identified in my study were nearly all found within the world's harshest desert climates. The few others could be explained by migrations out of the desert regions into moister climates, where violence tended to persist over generations due to the persisting of "desert" social institutions, formed within the original desert-homelands of those societies, and carried with them as they migrated or invaded and conquered the wetter desert-border regions.  A review of archaeological evidence for warfare, on a time-line, also confirmed that the earliest evidence for social violence and warfare is found in those regions where human societies suffered during long epochs where lush forests and grasslands either slowly or dramatically converted, by agency of major climate change, into harsh deserts. 

The most notable example of this was the creation of the large "Saharasian" desert belt (my term for the Sahara + Middle East + Central Asian deserts) starting around or shortly before c.4000 BCE.  This vast climate change, the largest to occur since the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, dramatically affected developing human societies across the Fertile Crescent and elsewhere.  Before Saharasia existed, violence on Planet Earth was relatively isolated and non-existent.  After Saharasia formed, violence became a dominant feature across that large territory, gradually spreading by outward-directed mass-migrations and invasions into other parts of the Old World, and farther on from there.  But the geographical analysis demonstrates violence starting firstly and most dramatically within the desiccating Saharasian desert belt.* 

I'm very pleased to learn about the findings of Marc Levy, Dan Esty and the IBC, but clearly it would not be correct to say that these issues failed to be appreciated or seriously studied significantly heretofore.  It appears, in fact, that my earlier work has still not been superceded in its scope or implications. My work on Saharasia has been around and published in summary articles over 20 years, including in a major book.* Noteworthy also is, through the late 1980s when I still held my academic appointments, I repeatedly tried to bring my findings to the attention of government policy-makers, suggesting to them the social variables identified in my work which correlated so well with drought and desertification had a strong predictive value, allowing us to identify those nations and regions likely to "go violent" with their weapons, against either their own people, or other nations. My recommendations were treated with smug politeness, but never taken seriously.  Of course, 9-11 happened since then, and while terribly un-PC given how we are not supposed to be critical of other cultures (whatever happened to "National Character Studies" as developed during WW-II?!), most everyone accepts that peoples from the Saharasian Desert Belt are the major principles engaged in global terrorism, and Empire-building through violent means.


James DeMeo, Ph.D.
Ashland, Oregon, USA
(formerly on the faculty of geography, Illinois State University, University of Miami)

* James DeMeo: "Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child-Abuse, Sex-Repression, Social Violence and War, in the Deserts of the Old World", Natural Energy, 1998.  For details, citations and purchasing weblinks, see:

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