Academics often compare Western civilisation to the Roman Empire. This is hardly surprising when you consider that Amsterdam, London and Washington all compared themselves to Rome while constructing Romanesque government buildings and laws.
The period 500-100BC saw the ascension of that empire. The general population was overwhelmingly poor yet their loyalty and respect for the Roman Republic was high. Women were burdened with the job of creating and nurturing many children so they could go off to some far off place to be butchered for The Republic. These men trusted the civilian government that sent them to fight the Punic Wars against Carthage, whose fearsome commander Hannibal threatened Rome’s very survival. The men who fought these tough battles were citizen-soldiers – like the draftees used by the United States other Western countries until the early 1970s. Our own Punic Wars – the two world wars and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam – saw millions of poor and working class citizen-soldiers sacrifice themselves fighting a powerful enemy they believed threatened their very way of life.
By the 1st century BC, Rome was the most advanced and powerful civilisation on Earth and Romans’ material wealth was skyrocketing. Men and women are increasingly less interested in marriage and no-fault divorce is enacted. Birth rates start to decline below the replacement rate. The citizen soldiers are eventually replaced with professional soldiers who expect compensation and are loyal to the military itself, not the state. As the empire expands in a series of wars of choice it is becomes increasingly multicultural thanks to new citizens from conquered territories. Their loyalty is in question but Rome depends on them as mercenaries to defend the declining state. The government and the military industrial complex replace the private sector as the sole entity responsible for everyone’s well-being. There is moral decay and brutality as Julius Caesar brags about killing one million Gauls. This period could be compared our own world since 1970. By the 400s Rome is being pillaged by Visigoths and Vandals, who ensure it never makes it to the 500s.
However there was something else occurring in the 400s that wasn’t happening in the preceding centuries. Although corruption and immorality were rife, the scientific and historical record shows the climate cooled but, more destructively, it became erratic. Long dry conditions were interrupted by intense deluges. Unseasonal spells of cold weather became the norm. Although solar activity records only date back to the 1600s, these conditions were almost certainly the result of a combination of low solar activity and high volcanic activity – much like the post-medieval warm period that saw solar minimums like the so-called Maunder and Dalton and large volcanic eruptions like the Tambora which, combined with the Dalton, created freezing summers. The result during the 400s was rising food prices, which along with the other factors created deep social dissatisfaction as the economy faltered.
In today’s world Western countries have recklessly created wars in Muslim lands only to accept millions of refugees. The argument has been made that these immigrants are necessary due to falling birth rates of the indigenous populations which leads to faltering economic growth. On the other hand developed countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan also have low birth rates but they don’t create wars in the Middle East and don’t accept massive influxes of refugees. The two issues seem to go hand in hand, like a new Rome invading territories, raising their civilisations to the ground, and acquiring both their skilled and non-skilled workers. In both the United States and Western Europe, the tension is building between recent immigrants and the indigenous population, punctuated by lone-wolf random attacks. The population in the US is increasingly suspicious of the government as it raises the debt ceiling again and again to pay for entitlements, the military industrial complex and other government subsidised programmes that create employment. It has spent trillions in Middle Eastern wars which are now being fought by Kurdish ad Arab mercenaries who expect to be paid $1,000 a month while the Syrian government only pays it’s conscripts $50 per month. Be that as it may, everything hums right along as cheap food and energy power a service-sector economy of affordable hotels and restaurants. Non-military manufacturing had moved to Asia by the 1980s.
Enter the monkey in the wrench. After 200 years of healthy solar maximums, solar activity has been plummeting since 2010 and the first solar minimum will hit bottom around 2021. By the 2030s solar physicists now reckon that a grand solar minimum will consume most of the rest of the century. Volcanic activity has also been on the increase and more is expected as eruptions occur most often during solar cycle peaks or at solar minimums. In previous articles published in this newspaper I chronicled increasingly intense and erratic weather patterns that have coincided with the lower solar activity since 2010. The latest include a cold front that descended on the US Midwest in late June dropping temperatures to near freezing, and recent snowfall 200 kilometres south of Moscow in Tarttarastran. Wheat futures immediately rose 6 per cent. At this time the world takes cheap foodstuffs for granted. A change of this reality in the future could shake the global world order to its foundations.