In this book, Philipp Blom examines the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling between the 16th and the 19th century, that primarily affected the North Atlantic region, and the societal changes it prompted. His focus lies mostly on the late 16th century and the 17th century in Europe as this was the period in which the effects were felt most severely, and the sources regarding the situation and changes are more plentiful for Europe than for other regions.
The main part of the book concerns itself primarily with economics, religion, and philosophy, and how and why it took such a long time for people to finally respond to the changing circumstances, but that when they did, why the transformation was so massive. Unfortunately, the author is prone to meandering through subject areas that do not necessarily reveal an immediate connection to the actual topic, and these sections are tedious to get through. In parts, it reads more like a general history of 17th century philosophy, and the connection to the central argument gets lost in all the noise.
Generally, the book leaves me somewhat perplexed due to the uneven quality. The author’s hypothesis that climate change has triggered this gigantic social, economic, philosophical, and scientific progress is, in my opinion, not quite conclusively argued, as there seems to be no clear distinction between correlation and causation. Nevertheless, I found that the book improves enormously in the second half, when the various threads begin to come together and the overall point is made. The epilogue is therefore very much worth reading, because the puzzle pieces align and reveal the whole picture. Finally, Blom comes through and offers an intriguing conclusion on the Little Ice Age, the adaptability of humankind, and the beginning of the Enlightenment and the free market, and on top of that, a unique and devastating view of today’s situation as well, as he makes it clear that decisive action is needed fast, and that no invisible hand will save humanity from itself.