(ORDO NEWS) — What is an angle of 23.5 degrees is nonsense. But if the Earth did not rotate on its axis exactly at such an inclination, we would not see the seasons, and with them progress, many innovations and a butter sandwich for breakfast. In a word, humanity would have had a hell of a bad time. Or are we over-dramatizing? Let’s figure it out.
You just get used to summer days – bam! – September. And then winter with fifty shades of gray. But let’s look at it from a different angle.
When a Mars-sized object collided with Earth 4.5 billion years ago, a decent chunk broke away from it, which later became the Moon. That collision tilted the Earth 23.5 degrees relative to the plane of the ecliptic, so our planet has since rotated around the Sun at an angle. These were two very important changes in the history of our planet. By the way, this angle is not constant and changes with a period of about 40,000 years, but this is not about that now. Since then, the amount of sunlight falling on the northern and southern hemispheres has changed throughout the year. This cycle determines the seasonal fluctuations of the Earth, and this is our great luck. Without the tilt of the Earth’s axis, humanity would be in a deplorable state. Why?
Forget about modern technology, steam engine or sliced loaves. None of this would exist in a world without the change of seasons. According to Don Attwood, an anthropologist at McGill University in Montreal, people in such conditions would never have achieved all the benefits of civilization that they have now.
Scientists say that the Earth without a tilt would be rigidly divided into climatic bands, which would get colder and colder with distance from the equator. In such conditions, people are not able to survive the continuous winter in high latitudes, and therefore humanity would most likely gather in the tropical middle part of the planet. Under current conditions, the tropical zones of the Earth, for the most part, have minimal variability in temperature and day length throughout the year, and therefore these regions can serve as archetypes of what a seasonless Earth could be like. And it seems that everything is not so bad, living in the tropics is not the worst prospect.
If the inhabited world were a continuous humid tropical zone, such as Congo forests, constant rains would quickly erode the soil in any land cleared for farming and wash out nutrients below root level, quickly rendering arable land unsuitable for crops.
In addition to the problems with agriculture, the handful of people left would be constantly plagued by pathogens that thrive in warm and humid environments. Winter protects most of the world’s population from tropical insects that carry deadly diseases and a long list of tropical diseases in humans, crops and livestock. By the way, HIV is one of the viruses that spread from tropical forests. The mortality and morbidity rate, either directly from disease or from hunger, would skyrocket.
On the other hand, if the Earth were consistently warm and dry, like the Arabian Peninsula, our species would be even worse. Aside from its role in suppressing the growth of deadly pathogens and their insect vectors, winter is vital to human development in many other ways. Wheat, corn, potatoes, oats and barley grow only where there is a full winter.
Not only grain crops, but also the industrial revolution, and all the technologies that have arisen as a result of it, are rooted in a kind of struggle with winter and cold. One way or another, modern technology can be seen as a by-product of developing new ways to keep warm. Remember this the next time you complain that summer has flown by, and now you need to get down jackets and underpants from the mezzanine. It could have been worse. Much worse.
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