Can We Leave It All Behind?: A “Not Even Past” Collaboration

Planet Texas 2050
Mar 16 · 3 min read

By Adam Rabinowitz

Archaeologists look at a glowing screen showing LiDAR images from Mayan ruins in the Guatemalan jungle.
Specialists in Mesoamerican archaeology for LiDAR imagery at the Texas Advanced Computing Center VisLab on the UT campus during a February 2020 Maya LiDAR workshop. Source: Adam Rabinowitz

As part of the Institute for Historical Studies’ “Climate in Context” events, Planet Texas 2050 has teamed up with the digital magazine “Not Even Past” to release a series of articles highlighting how history and archaeology are key to our understanding and mitigation of the devastating effects of climate change. “Climate in Context” is a year-long program of talks and workshops that look at how human interaction with the natural world has changed over time and what valuable information that can provide for addressing our current conditions. Here is a look at the second installment of the series, which explores how Planet Texas 2050 is studying past civilizations to understand how people responded to droughts and floods.

In the past, changes in sea level, droughts, erosion or sedimentation, or flooding have led to the abandonment of settlements. Those ruined towns and cities bear witness to environmental changes that left them unsustainable.

But the people who lived in them didn’t simply die or vanish. They moved. We can read this movement in the old settlements scattered across the landscape, but we can also read it in our own DNA, equally dotted with the evidence for past migrations.

For all of our history, mobility has helped to ensure our species’ success. If the mosquito problem in our neighborhood was too much to bear, we left. But as more and more of the world’s population lives in cities, as more and more of our infrastructure and wealth is invested in those cities, and as our national borders harden in response to population movements driven by the ancient impulse to flee from danger, this option is increasingly fraught with conflict and risk.

As part of Planet Texas 2050, Classics Associate Professor Adam Rabinowitz has sought to find ways to bridge the divide between the distant past and the present, and to show how previous human experience is relevant to our future. His new flagship project, “Stories of Ancient Resilience,” focuses in particular on the ways complex societies in the past responded to climate change and pressures on shared resources like water — issues that today’s cities are grappling with.

Read more from Rabinowitz in his blog post for “Not Even Past.”

Please join us on this journey.

Adam Rabinowitz, Ph.D., is an associate professor of classics and is the assistant director of the Institute of Classical Archaeology at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also a founding Planet Texas 2050 grand challenge researcher. His work focuses on understanding how climate and environmental change affected past civilizations and applying those lessons to urban areas today.

PlanetTexas2050

Texas' population could nearly double by the year 2050.

PlanetTexas2050

Texas' population could nearly double by the year 2050. Extreme weather events will bring more floods, more droughts, and more heat. Our state's resources can't support those demands. Making Texas resilient is our grand challenge.

Planet Texas 2050

Written by

We're a group of researchers from across UT Austin. Making Texas resilient in the face of rapid population growth and climate extremes is our grand challenge.

PlanetTexas2050

Texas' population could nearly double by the year 2050. Extreme weather events will bring more floods, more droughts, and more heat. Our state's resources can't support those demands. Making Texas resilient is our grand challenge.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store