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The great dying, the Little Ice Age, and us

By Gwynne Dyer       

If the only Eurasians to reach the Americas had been peace-loving Spanish nuns—or peace-loving Chinese monks, for that matter—the Great Dying would have happened anyway.

When the tens of millions of native Americans died, the forests grew back on the land they used to farm. All those forests absorbed so much carbon dioxide that the average global temperature dropped, and what would otherwise have been a minor cyclical cooling became the Little Ice Age, writes columnist Gwynne Dyer. Photograph courtesy of Unsplash

LONDON, U.K.—The Black Death killed about 30 per cent of the European population in a few years in the middle of the 14th century. A century and a half later, the native people of the Americas were hit by half a dozen plagues as bad as the Black Death, one after another, and 95 per cent of them died. The plagues of the “Great Dying” had much less terrifying names like measles, influenza, diphtheria, and smallpox, but they were just as efficient at killing.

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