The researchers from the Ohio State University has done some extensive research work on the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, and then came to the conclusion that the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the subsequent destruction of the Incas and the Aztecs contributed to the climate change being experienced in the Americas today.
There is no doubt from several reports that the Spanish conquest decimated the Inca and Aztec civilizations, and destroyed indigenous populations while also bringing slavery, disease, and the destruction of historical and cultural artifacts, but how this brought about a global warming is something that many can’t wrap around their heads.
However, the researchers maintain that long before local factories in Shanghai or Chicago started to pollute the air with atmospheric toxins, that the Spanish campaigns for precious metals contributed to climate change.
According to Paolo Gabrielli and other researchers from the Ohio State University, leftover evidences at the core of the Quelccaya glacier revealed that mining and metallurgical activities took place in the region between 793 and 1989 – and these evidences were trace elements like bismuth, arsenic, and lead among others that got deposited on surrounding glaciers during mining, extraction, and refining operations of precious metals.
The researchers were able to determine that when the Incas started to enlarge their empire and use bismuth deposits to fashion bronze alloy around 1480, the 1533 Spanish conquest of the Incas brought about an increase in the levels of chromium, antimony, lead, and molybdenum that was only surpassed by the arrival of the Industrial Revolution.
“The metallurgic activities of the Inca had most likely only a local impact on the environment surrounding their mining operations,” said Gabrielli, also a research scientist at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State. “In contrast, the mining and metallurgic activities performed by the Spanish had an impact on the atmosphere of the entire South America continent.”
There was then an increase through 1700 to 1830 when wars of independence were fought in Spanish America, leading to a large-scale destruction of mines and machines by Republican fighters.
The scientists noted that during this time, “rebel and royalist armies destroyed machinery, killed draft animals, and damaged mines and refineries. In addition, the scarcity of both [mercury] and labor for amalgamation, lack of transportation infrastructure, dearth of capital, and debilitating fiscal policies all contributed to stagnation in the mining industry during this time.”
According to the study, the anthropocene epoch started when human activities impacted the Earth’s ecosystems before the Industrial Revolution; and this according to other researchers meant the early Greek, Roman, and Medieval periods – largely because of the lead element found in Greenland ice cores.
“This new epoch emerged discontinuously through space and time during human history,” Gabrielli said “In other words, our data challenge the concept of the onset of the Anthropocene as a synchronous global discontinuity in the global geological record.”