Date sent:        Tue, 02 Dec 1997 15:26:34 -0500 (EST)
From:             Benny J Peiser <
Subject:          AGAINST NATURE
Priority:         NORMAL


In his classic work, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn
has shown how, in the war-ridden history of mankind, apocalyptic
ideologies and movements have often led to extremist and inhuman
reactions, including religious and political persecution, terrorism
or even mass murder. At the centre of most end-time scenarios lies
the belief that any means are justified to hinder (or bring about)
the immanent collapse of this world. In view of a perceived global
threat, anyone standing in the way of salvation is considered to be
a dangerous foe. During such episodes of apocalyptic frency, a
balanced debate about or rational assessment of the actual evidence
is almost unrealisable (see in great detail, Michael Barkun:
Millennialism and Violence, London & Portland: Frank Cass, 1996).

The latest product of this ancient doctrine is the assumption that
mankind is on the verge of an immanent ecological apocalypse - in
form of biological meltdown, loss of biodiversity, the destruction
of the ozone layer, melting ice caps, floods and droughts, global
warming, etc. Ever since the development and use of nuclear
weapons, the obsession of man-made global catastrophes has
replaced religious millennialism. Regrettably, only few scientists
have been trying to defuse this increasing scaremongering. Those
sceptics who underline the lack of unambiguous evidence and who
dare to speak out against populist sentiments have been branded as

Yet, most environmentalists are totally unaware of the fact that
their apocalyptic belief system is not so much based on hard data
but rather on ancient doctrines which - most likely - are rooted
in the experience of fundamentally different natural calamities. As
long as the historical basis of this age-old and recurrent mass
hysteria is not elucidated, end-time obsessions can easily lead to
irrational meassures rather than effective interventions.

As we witness the deliberations at the current world climate
summit in Kyoto, it seems to me both scientifically and morally
necessary to remind ourselves, that is those who live in the
privileged wealth of the Western world, of the disasterous
consequences which have already been afflicted on millions of poor
and hunger stricken people in the Third World - by Green poletics.

I have therefore attached the transcript of AGAINST NATURE, a
Channel 4 production which was broadcast last Sunday on national
TV. In this first of a series of documentaries, the apocalyptic
ideology of ecological fundamentalists is characterised not only
as unscientific and irrational, but also as anti-humanist.

Benny J Peiser


Against Nature begins by exposing the absence of scientific rigour
behind notions such as the greenhouse effect and global warming.
It goes on to contrast densely populated, industrialised First
World countries (much hated by the Greens), which have clean air,
clean water and long life expectancies, with sparsely populated,
largely pre-industrial countries (much loved by the Greens), which
have polluted water, terrible air and far shorter life

The second programme exposes the myth of overpopulation and points
to the barbarism and racism of environmentalist plans to reduce
population levels in the Third World.

The last programme in the series identifies environmentalism as
the new enemy of science, taking over from religion. It argues
that Green scaremongering about genetics and fertility has led to
valuable scientific research being stopped.

The first programme in the series presents arguments that global
warming is a myth and that the environment in the developed world
is improving. Environmentalists hanker after a pre-industrial
idyll, but conditions in the Third World are harsh and millions
die every year  because of unclean water and smoke from indoor

The Greens oppose major development projects, but many local
people want the electricity and clean water they will bring. Many
resent the interference and hypocrisy of Western
environmentalists, who have all the benefits and comforts of

The programme hears both from those who criticise the
environmental movement and from the Greens themselves.


Most people in the Third World lack the basic amenities of modern
life that we in the West take for granted: clean drinking water
and a reliable supply of electricity. And Third World governments
are eager to industrialise in order to catch up with the West. But
environmentalists say that if they do this, the future of the
planet will be imperilled.

'If everybody in the world consumed like the British, the
Europeans or the Americans,' says Tony Juniper, Campaigns Manager
for Friends of the Earth, 'then we'd need about eight planets to
meet people's needs. And it would still be unsustainable.'

In the name of preserving nature, environmentalists have
challenged the old ideas of progress and economic development. But
in doing so, they have been accused of needlessly consigning
millions of people in the Third World to poverty and early death.

The shadow of the Enlightenment

The attempt by man to understand and to conquer nature was at the
heart of Enlightenment thinking. A scientific, rational
understanding of the physical world was a means of changing nature
to serve our needs and desires better. But these Enlightenment
ideas of rationalism and progress have been called into question
by environmentalists. They have led, they say, to the monstrous
creation of modern industrial life, with its factories and cars,
chemicals and fumes.

'People seem to have accepted the view that they should feel
guilty about man's impositions on nature, about progress and
technological improvement,' says Steve Hayward of the Pacific
Research Centre. 'Even science today is somewhat suspect in the
public mind. I think this is a result of the pervasive
environmental philosophy that there's a distinction between man
and nature, and that what man does is bad and what nature does is

Gregg Easterbrook, author of A Moment on the Earth, a critique of
environmental thinking, agrees. He argues that the idealisation of
nature common in the environmental movement is a modern luxury
that has, paradoxically, been made possible by development. 'Most
of our ancestors spent their lives struggling to grow food, to
protect themselves against disease and the elements,' he says.
'They found nature did not know best. Nature was a hostile force
for them.'

The power of the Greens

Environmentalists often depict themselves as folk heroes and
rebels, fighting a mighty anti-Green establishment. But the Green
movement itself has become a powerful political force, which
dominates much of Western thinking. 'It's said they control the
Clinton administration,' says Senator Larry Craig.

The environmentalist movement today is rich and powerful: the top
12 Green organisations in the US alone have an annual turnover of
just under a billion dollars. In the UK, four million people are
members of Green organisations - that's more than are members of
all the other political organisations put together.

Suspending disaster: the myth of global warming

Green groups such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the World
Wildlife Fund and Earth First are using their influence to
persuade people that an environmental disaster of historic
proportions is just around the corner. As Barbara Mass of the Pan
African Conservation Group succinctly puts it: 'I think we're
going to drown in our own muck.'

Environmentalist thinking is now widely accepted in the West.
However, many scientists argue that what the Greens say about
global warming and pollution is wrong. Professor Wilfred
Beckerman, a former member of the Royal Commission on
Environmental Pollution, was himself an enthusiastic
environmentalist until he started examining the facts. He told
Against Nature: 'Within a few months of looking at the statistical
data, I realised that most of my concerns about the environment
were based on false information and scare stories.'

According to Piers Corbyn, Director of Weather Action, many
scientists do not accept the idea that pollution is causing global
warming. Environmentalists claim that world temperatures have
risen one degree Fahrenheit in the past century, but Corbyn points
out that the period they take as their starting point - around
1880 - was colder than average. What's more, the timing of
temperature changes does not appear to support the theory of
global warming. Most of the rise came before 1940 - before
human-caused emissions of 'greenhouse' gases became significant.

According to the Greens, during the post-war boom global warming
should have pushed temperatures up. But the opposite happened. 'As
a matter of the fact, the decrease in temperature, which was very
noticeable in the 60s and 70s, led many people to fear that we
would be going into another ice age,' remembers Fred Singer,
former Chief Scientist with the US Weather Program.

Even in recent times, the temperature has not behaved as it should
according to global warming theory. Over the last eight years,
temperature in the southern hemisphere has actually been falling.
Moreover, says Piers Corbyn, 'When proper satellite measurements
are done of world temperatures, they do not show any increase
whatsoever over the last 20 years.'

But Greens refuse to accept they have could have been proved
wrong. Now they say global warming can involve temperature going
both up and down.  'Global warming is above all global climatic
destabilisation,' says Edward Goldsmith, editor of the Ecologist,
'with extremes of cold and heat when you don't expect it. You
can't predict climate any more. You get terrible droughts in
certain cases; sometimes you get downpours. In Egypt, I think,
they had a rainfall for the first time in history - they suddenly
had an incredible downpour. Water pouring down in places where
it's never rained before. And then you get droughts in another
area. So it's going to be extremely unpredictable.'

Scientists also point out that nature produces far more greenhouse
gases than we do. For example, when the Mount Pinatubo volcano
erupted, within just a few hours it had thrown into the atmosphere
30 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide - almost twice as much as all
the factories, power plants and cars in the United States do in a
whole year. Oceans emit 90 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, the
main greenhouse gas, every year. Decaying plants throw up another
90 billion tonnes, compared to just six billion tonnes a year from

What's more, 100 million years ago, there was six times as much
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as there is now, yet the
temperature then was marginally cooler than it is today. Many
scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide doesn't even affect

Although many environmentalists have been forced to accept much of
the scientific evidence against global warming, they still argue
that it is better to be safe than sorry. So they continue to use
global warming as a reason to oppose industrialisation and
economic growth.

Clearing the air: growth, technology and pollution

The industrial First World represents the Greens' worst nightmare.
More economic growth, they say, can only mean more pollution and
environmental degradation. But others argue that, on the contrary,
over the past half century the environment in the advanced
industrial world has actually improved.

'Air pollution has been falling in modern industrialised countries
for the last 40 years,' says Steve Hayward. 'And it's been falling
precisely because of economic growth and improvements in
technology. Even in Los Angeles, which has the worst smog in the
United States, air pollution levels have fallen by about half in
the last 25 years - and that's at a time when the area's
population has doubled and its economy has tripled.'

In the United States as a whole, over the past quarter of a
century, the population has increased by 30 per cent, while the
number of cars and the size of the economy has nearly doubled. And
yet, during the same period, emissions of the six main air
pollutants have decreased by 30 per cent. In addition, says Gregg
Easterbrook, Americans have stopped pumping waste water from
cities into lakes and streams, stopped dumping untreated sewage in
the sea and toxic wastes on land, and eliminated the use of CFCs.

'Lake Erie 30 years ago was virtually dead,' adds Steve Hayward.
'Today you can fish in it, you can swim in it. The statistics on
the amount of pollution in the food chain have shown dramatic
improvement in the last 30 years.'

Western cities such as London are cleaner today than they have
been for centuries. In the mid 1900s, before cars were even
invented, air and water quality was so poor that many thousands of
people died each year from typhus and TB.

Supporters of economic development don't just argue that the
industrial world is getting cleaner, they also say that industrial
progress has transformed our lives for the better. 'We live
longer, we are healthier, we are better educated, we know
ourselves better and we are much more able to take control over
our destiny than any other time in the past,' says Dr Frank
Furedi, author of the book Population and Development. 'Yes,
industrialisation is often exploitative, often leads to the
uprooting of people. But at the same time it adds to human
civilisation and means progress for all.'

The pre-industrial fantasy

But the Greens insist we must turn our backs on these 'outdated'
ideas of economic and industrial progress. If we are to avoid an
environmental catastrophe, they say, we must go back to living in
harmony with nature. And to do this we must learn from
pre-industrial tribal societies in the Third World.

40 per cent of the world's population still uses either wood or dung for
fuel instead of electricity. But the indoor pollution from this is deadly,
especially for women and children who spend most time in the home. According
to the World Health Organisation, 5 million infants die every year in the
Third World from respiratory diseases caused by breathing indoor smoke and
rural smog.

Basic pollution of this kind kills far more people than all First
World environmental problems combined. One and a half billion
people in the Third World suffer air quality that is recognised by
the World Health Organisation as 'dangerously unsafe', a level of
pollution almost unknown in the Western world.

Dr Anil Patel is responsible for the health care of more than 200
villages in Gujarat, in north-west India. The vast majority of
medical problems he encounters have been brought on by
environmental causes. But the environmental problems he is
concerned with come not from modern industry but rather from the
lack of modern luxuries such as electricity and clean water.

'Clean water is completely out of question,' says Dr Patel. 'The
water they get is untreated. Most of the time it is contaminated
with human faeces and cattle faeces, and the ultimate result is
that there are all sorts of water-borne diseases.'

Water-borne diseases in the Third World have not been caused by
modern industry. On the contrary, the only way to get rid of them
is with modern water-cleaning facilities - the kind we take for
granted in the West.

In the Third World, 250 million people are infected each year by
water-borne diseases, mostly dysentery. Patients suffer severe
stomach cramps, chronic diarrhoea and various other disorders such
as skin disease, and each year 10 million of them die. The World
Health Organisation estimated that in 1996 3.9 million children
under the age of five died from diseases communicated by impure
drinking water, mostly diarrhoea.

'Death from diarrhoea has been unheard of in the Western world in
the past two generations,' says Gregg Easterbrook. 'That 3.9
million children dead in  the developing world last year exceeds
all deaths at all ages from all causes in the United States and
the European Union combined. And yet we endlessly speak of water
purity in the West as an issue.'

The idealisation by Greens of life in the Third World is resented
by many people there. 'I see in this a serious problem of
hypocrisy, and if not hypocrisy, a gross insensitivity,' says Dr

According to the World Health Organisation, life expectancy for
people in the Third World is 20 years less than our own. In the
poorest areas they live 35 years less.

Damning development: the Greens and the Narmada project

People in India are struggling to emerge from the backward
condition in which they find themselves. The Indian government is
trying to build a hydroelectric dam on the Narmada river to
provide clean water and the electricity which is vital for
industrial progress. It will submerge 350 square kilometres of
land and provide enough electricity to supply almost 5,000
villages in north-west India. It will provide clean drinking water
for 30 million people and it will be an enormous boost for
economic and industrial growth.

Not everyone is keen, however. Lisa Jordan is a director of The
Bank Information Centre, an environmentalist group which tries to
stop the World Bank from funding large-scale development projects
in the Third World that are deemed environmentally unfriendly. She
is keen to preserve traditional  tribal life. 'This is genocide of
tribal people who have lived in the forests that are being drowned
for centuries. They're one of the oldest living populations on
this earth that have been documented. These are the cultures that
pay because of a large dam being developed to pipe water to a
larger agriculture system, to provide electricity, to provide the

But locals are not so keen on preserving things as they are.
'Instead of saying that we want this particular life to be encased
like a museum, we must say that we want progress,' one woman told
Against Nature. 'We want development of a particular kind and
therefore we need larger dams.'

Environmentalists are worried about the damage the dam will do to
wildlife in the area, but supporters of the dam are equally
appalled that the environmentalists are so concerned with
preserving bio-diversity at the expense of human development.

'What exactly is the value of all this bio-diversity?' asks
Wilfred Beckerman. 'This idea that you have to preserve every
scrap of nature, even though destroying it might confer enormous
benefits on people whose standard of living and quality of life is
so low as to be unimaginable for the vast majority of people in
the Western world, I think is scandalous. I just get very angry
when I hear this sort of thing. Whose side are these people on?'

As it happens, no pristine forest will be destroyed by the Narmada
dam and the only endangered species to be affected is a colony of
sloth bears, for which the Indian government is building a
wildlife reserve nearby.

But the Greens say they aren't just concerned about the natural
destruction of the dam. They point to the number of tribal people
who will have to be resettled elsewhere. Brent Blackwelder,
chairman of Friends of the Earth US, says more than 100,000 people
will be uprooted from their homes. But according to the Indian
government and the World Bank, the project will displace 70,000
people, who will be given farmland elsewhere with the benefits of
roads, schools, electricity and clean water.

Critics of the Greens say environmentalists themselves are
prepared to push tribal people off their land to make way for wild
animals. Nature reserves founded in India by the World Wildlife
Fund have displaced at least 25,000 people simply to make way for

Five years ago Dr Patel welcomed environmentalists' concern about
tribal people and was even persuaded by the Greens to campaign
against the dam. Today, he believes the real concern of
environmentalists is to block progress. He is now a fervent
supporter of the dam and accuses the Greens of seeming to care
more about animals than people.

Many environmentalists argue that if people in the Third World
want electricity, they should use solar power or wind power. But
not only would solar and wind power fail to meet the need for
clean water, environmentalists themselves admit that they would be
fantastically more expensive. To produce the same amount of
electricity as the Narmada dam using wind power would cost at
least six times as much. Using solar power would cost more than
seven times as much - and even then it is doubtful that it could
be done. The Narmada dam will produce 400 times as much
electricity as the largest solar panel installation currently in

Local Indians such as Dr Patel dismiss all the Green arguments
against the dam, saying that the dam will change things, but there
can be no development without change.

Green pressure on the World Bank has led to funding for the
Narmada dam being withdrawn. Consequently, work on the dam, which
began in the early 60s, has all but stopped. Most
environmentalists believe it will never be completed.

In addition, leading environmentalists have estimated that they
have effectively blocked around 300 hydroelectric dams in the
Third World, denying many millions of poor people the benefits of
electricity and clean water.

Tom Blinkhorn of the World Bank thinks many people in the West who
contribute to environmental organisations don't realise the
implications. 'What they don't see is the tremendous poverty that
exists in other parts of  the world, and that if we are going to
help people address that poverty, we need to do it through large
dams and activities that many organisations in the Green movement
are opposed to. I think a lot of the constituency for Green groups
simply do not know about the problems in the Third World.'

Conservation and conservatism

There have been many attempts in the past to block social and
economic progress. But few have been as successful as today's
environmentalist movement, which uses the threat of a global
ecological crisis to override the wishes of those people who most
need the benefits of progress. And it's not only dams that the
Greens campaign against.

'Western environmentalist sentiment has been successful ... in
blocking a whole range of industrial facilities,' says Gregg
Easterbrook. 'Factories, roads, logging - even well-regulated
logging - have been vehemently opposed.'

Steve Hayward argues that it's immoral for rich environmentalists
to impose their ideology on Third World countries, where people
are poor and disease is rampant. 'The best thing that could happen
to those countries is to industrialise rapidly ... so they have
the resources not only to be healthier but  also to protect their
environment. To stand in the way of that is wrong and dangerous in
my mind.' After all, adds Gregg Easterbrook, we became affluent
through industrialisation and exploiting our resources.

Greens are often portrayed as left-wing radicals, battling against
a backward-looking establishment. But they are in fact part of a
long tradition of conservatism that idealises nature and the past.
These conservative instincts motivated 19th-century figures such
as Nietzsche and Wagner, and movements such as the Romantics, who
were horrified by England's 'dark satanic mills' (as William Blake
described them) and dreamt of returning to a mythical past of
medieval knights and maidens, and even the Boy Scout movement,
which in its origins combined a mystical affinity with nature,
Right-wing nationalism and a hatred of degenerate modern life.

What we today call 'environmentalism' is ... based on a fear of
change,' says Frank Furedi. 'It's based upon a fear of the outcome
of human action. And therefore it's not surprising that when you
look at the more xenophobic right-wing movements in Europe in the
19th century, including German fascism, it quite often had a very
strong environmentalist dynamic to it.'

Fascism, animal rights and human rights

The most notorious environmentalists in history were the German
Nazis. The  Nazis ordered soldiers to plant more trees. They were
the first Europeans to establish nature reserves and order the
protection of hedgerows and other wildlife habitats. And they were
horrified at the idea of hydroelectric dams on
the Rhine. Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis were vegetarian
and they passed numerous laws on animal rights.

'They had essentially a biological view of society,' Dr Furedi
continues. 'They regarded society as an organism to which you were
rooted through blood ties ... and felt much more comfortable with
what they perceived to be natural than what were the products of
human creativity. I think that's one of the
reasons why [Hitler] had this celebration of the animal kingdom,
the celebration of wildlife.'

The historian Dr Mark Almond, of Oriel College, Oxford, goes
further.  'Goering made ferocious blood curdling speeches saying
that people who  were cruel to animals, including scientists who
did research on them, would  be put in concentration camps,' he
says. 'This was perversely part of the  logic which could at the
same time put people into concentration camps, on  whom they

Frank Furedi agrees. 'History shows us is that whenever people
begin to treat animals like human beings, it's only a smell step
away from treating human beings like animals. And that seems to me
the logical outcome of  this nostalgic, sentimental approach
towards animal rights.'

A Western agenda

Environmentalists today have been accused of effectively imposing
their views on the Third World, and causing immense suffering in
the process. 'The new focus on environmental issues too often has
the consequence of  turning societies into theme parks,' argues
Frank Furedi. 'They are very attractive for the voyeuristic
Western imagination, but actually doom people in those societies
to a life of poverty.

'And it seems to me that there is no accountability here. It's not
the people of  Africa and Asia or Latin America that have demanded
environmental policies; these are policies that are being pushed
by everybody in the West,  from the World Bank to Green
organisations. Who gave them the authority?  By what moral right
do they dictate the terms of how these societies can  develop and
realise their potential for the future?'

Gregg Easterbrook emphasises the hypocrisy of attitudes in the
West: 'It's still possible in affluent circles in the United
States or Europe to see people sitting in an air-conditioned room
eating free-range chicken and sipping Chablis, talking amongst
themselves about how farmers in Africa shouldn't
have tractors, because it might disrupt the soil, or how peasants in India
shouldn't be allowed to have hydroelectric power, because it's not
appropriate to their culture.... What would really be immoral is if we
insisted on keeping material affluence for ourselves and try to deny it to
the billions of others in the world who want and deserve exactly the same

Our attitude to the Third World, as Frank Furedi puts it, is that
'... your societies are doomed to be poor-houses for the rest of
the world. It purports to be ever so radical and ever so
sensitive, but what it does is it sets a Western agenda on the
rest of the world. It's as intrusive today as imperialism was in
the 19th century.

'The problem isn't that we have so much that we're squandering
resources,  the real problem is that most people do not have
access to even the most basic needs of everyday life. The real
problem is that they're denied good  education and good health.
Therefore, the answer does not lie in going backwards and trying
to be anti-technological, close down factories and not build
roads.... Only through the appliance of science and technology can
people's aspirations be realised even at the most elementary

People today face many difficulties in the First World as well as
the Third:  poverty and squalor, ignorance and disease. But the
battle against these  evils cannot be won by returning to nature
or some mythical past. Instead, we  must go forwards to a better
future with confidence in our ability to
understand and change the world.

Date sent:        Tue, 02 Dec 1997 12:08:03 -0500 (EST)
From:             Benny J Peiser <
Subject:          CC Digest, 2 December 1997
Priority:         NORMAL








V.P. Stulov: Interactions of space bodies with atmospheres of
planets. Applied Mechanics Review vol. 50 (11,1) 1997, pp. 671-688

Institute of Mechanics, Moscow Lomonosov State University,
Michurinskky Avenue 1, Moscow 119899, Russia;

In this review article, a modern theory of meteor body motion in the
atmosphere is described. The theory is based on the results of
high-speed aerodynamics. The author understands that such an
application is difficult and unusual. The difference between space
vehicle aerodynamics and bolide physics is, first of all, in absence
of knowledge about shapes of meteorites and of their
physical-mechanical properties. On the other hand, the main
aerodynamical laws are the same for vehicles and meteoroids. This
permits one to achieve some new developments in meteor physics. In
the first section, a simple analytical model for meteor trajectories
is developed. The second and fourth sections of the article contain
high-speed aerodynamics results: inviscid gas flow past bodies, and
convective and radiative heat transfer. The third section is devoted
to one of the difficult problems in meteor physics - the theory of
meteoroid destruction due to aerodynamical loading. Finally, the
fifth section contains some common questions on bolide phenomena. For
the solution of meteor physics problems, both analytical and
numerical methods are used. As such problems contain a number of
determining parameters which are not accurately known, the analytical
methods are preferable. The numerical methods are necessary for
calculation of complex gasdynamical structures during the motion of
the meteor bodies in the atmosphere. There are 50 references included
at the end of the article.


Duncan Steel <
Spaceguard Australia P/L

Who invented the idea that the dinosaurs met their denouement at the
hands of a cosmic (asteroid or comet) impact?  Numerous magazine
articles have given the impression that such a hypothesis had its
genesis in a paper published in 1980 by a team under Louis Alvarez,
but this is simply not the case, the concept having a far longer
history than just the past two decades.

As long ago as 1694 Edmond Halley suggested that impacts by comets
were possible, a subject which he wrote he would "leave to be
discussed by the studious of physical matters."  The topic was taken
up again in 1696 by William Whiston, by Thomas Wright of Durham in
1755, and the Marquis de Laplace in 1816, amongst others.  The
observed flux of comets, however, implied that such impacts had an
annual probability of order just one in a hundred million, so that
they might be dismissed.

The applecart was upset, however, when the nature of the Tunguska
event in 1908 was recognized after the event, and at about the same
time (in the 1930's) the first large Earth-crossing asteroids (ECAs)
were discovered. The importance of ECAs in explaining the lunar (and
terrestrial) cratering records was discussed in the 1940's in books
published by Fletcher Watson and Ralph Baldwin.  In a remarkable
brief item in Popular Astronomy magazine in 1942, the great American
meteoriticist Harvey Nininger went further: he suggested that
asteroid impacts were responsible for geological boundary events and
associated mass extinctions, controlling in part the evolution of
life on Earth.  But he did not specifically mention the dinosaurs.

Whilst palaeontologists have been known to complain of the incursion
of physical scientists (such as the Alvarez team) into their
territory, in fact one of the earliest suggestions of asteroids
causing the dinosaurs' demise appeared in the Journal of
Palaeontology in 1956. There M.W. De Laubenfels of Oregon State
College scaled the effects of impacts up from what had happened at
Tunguska, and imagined the dinosaurs being killed by the superheated
winds thus generated. In 1958 Ernst Opik of Armagh Observatory
suggested that geological boundaries were the result of asteroid
impacts, and physical evidence for this (in the form of coincidences
between tektite ages and the times of geological boundaries)
was discussed in 1973 by Harold Urey, a matter taken up again in 1979
by British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier who also
considered the ages of dated terrestrial craters.

The earliest specific suggestion I have been able to find for
asteroids killing the dinosaurs is a book which was privately
published in 1953 in California by Allan O. Kelly and Frank Dachille
under the title 'TARGET: EARTH - The Role of Large Meteors in Earth
Science.'  The authors identified such catastrophes as being the root
cause - "The extinction of the great reptiles came about with a
sudden change through the agency of cosmic collision" - although
their mechanism was untenable; they believed that the Earth's spin
axis was tilted in the impact with massive floods resulting.

Kelly and Dachille's book is also interesting in that they suggested
that humankind would eventually need to develop the mechanisms to
protect itself against catastrophes wrought by impacts: "This system
will require perpetual surveillance of a critical envelope of space
with the charting of all objects that come close to a collision
course with the earth. It will require, further, that on discovery of
a dangerous object moves be made to protect the earth."

Given that they were writing half a decade before Sputnik, one might
imagine that Kelly and Dachille must be the inventors of this concept
of 'planetary defence.' But not so. One has to go much further back,
to 1822 when Lord Byron was residing in Pisa.  Whilst taking a break
from his poetical labours, Byron was moved to suggest the following:

"Who knows whether, when a comet shall approach this globe to destroy
it, as it often has been and will be destroyed, men will not tear
rocks from their foundations by means of steam, and hurl mountains,
as the giants are said to have done, against the flaming mass? - And
then we shall have traditions of Titans again, and of wars with


The following communication on the topic of recent impact events and
craters has been exchanged on the meteorite-list-network. In my
presentation at this summer's NEO meeting at the Royal Greenwich
Observatory, Cambridge, and recently at a talk at the National
Science Foundation, Washington, I have suggested that the list of
currently known Holocene impact craters (i.e. those dated after the
last Ice Age), might indicate the occurance of certain  p e a k s  of
meteoric/commetary activity during the last 10,000 years, rather than
random impact events. The main problem with such a geological
extrapolation is the element of uncertainty with regards to the
accurate date of the hypervelocity impact craters in question. Ed
Grondine, a Washington based science journalist who was present at the NSF
talk, raised this issue in the following message:

From: Ed Grondine <

Benny -
       While you mentioned the re-dating of the Argentine impact site
in our conversations, I was surprised to read that 10 impact sites have been
dated as occuring since the Ice Age, and that 7 of the impacts occured
during the Bronze Age. Can you identify these impact sites for this list
before the Oxford publication?

from: Benny J Peiser


Mache (Russia)   c. 7,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Wabar (Saudi Arabia)  c. 6,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Henbury (Australia)  c. 5,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Boxhole (Australia)  c. 5,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Campo del Cielo (Argentina) c. 4,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Rio Cuarto (Argentina)  c. 4,000 BP (date: P. Schultz)
Kaalijarvi (Estonia)  c. 4,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)

These are rather tentative dates. Yet they indicate that we might be
dealing with certain peaks of meteoric activity rather than random
impact events.

Benny J Peiser


From: Wolfgang Czegka <

Dear Dr Peiser,

with interest I followed your discussion about holocene Impactcraters/
Bronze age cultural collapse. Perhaps I may add some dated holocene
impact structures to your list:


Place  Country L  b Age [a B.P.] Ref.

Tsöörikmäe Estland 58o 5&acute;N 27o27&acute;E 9500 Pirrus; Tiirmaa 1990
Morasko  Poland 52&deg;29'N 16&deg;54'E 5000 Czegka 1996
Ilumetsa Estland 59o3&acute;N 26o24&acute;E 6000 Czegka 1997
Simuna  Estland 59o3&acute;N 26o24&acute;E 55 Pirrus; Tiirmaa 1991

Tor Sweden 62,5o N 12,6o E undated Henkel et al. 1997

Concerning literature is cited below.

The date of the Kaali Impact seems to be too young. Newer
investigations of the Estonian Academy of Sciences are indicating an
age of 7000 B.P. (comp Tiirmaa 1994; Tiirmaa Czegka 1996) The most
interesting fact for me is that I have heard the this bronze age
collapse theory first about 10 years ago in the closed (locked again
for foreign influence) cage of ex Comecon. It was Lenard Meri an
Estonian historian who postulated an impacted induced collapse of
bronze aged Ridla culture caused by the impact of the Kaali/Sall
meteorite (Meri is now President of the Republic of Estonia). So I am
very interested in your Oxford paper. Please can you send me an

Best wishes
Wolfgang Czegka


Czegka, W. (1996): Die jungquartären Meteoritenkrater von Morasko bei
Posen, Pl. -Aufschluss 47, 165 - 185. **

(1997): Die Kratergruppe von Ilumetsa (Südestland). -Morphologische
Identifikationskriterien für kleine Impaktstrukturen in quartär
geprägten Gebieten -Aufschluss 48 200 - 210.**

Henkel, H. ; Tiirmaa, R.; Fleetwood, Å.; Blomquist, G. (1997): Tor - en
Meteoritnedslagskrater i Härjedalen, bildad efter istiden. - Tritia Geofoto
7, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, Institutionen för Geodesi och Fotogrammetri,
Stockholm, 59 S.

Pirrus, E.; Tiirmaa, R. (1990): The Meteor Craters in Estonia. -Symp.
Fennoscand. Impact Structures, Abstracts, 51.

Pirrus, E.; Tiirmaa, R. (1991): Kas Virumaa boliid jõudis maale?.
-Eesti Loodus (1991), 210-214.

Tiirmaa, R. (1994): Kaali Meteoriit. Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia 103 p.

Tiirmaa, R.; Czegka, W. (1996): The Kaali Meteor Craters at Saaremaa
(Ösel), Estonia. -Meteoritics and Planetary Science  31, A 142 - 143.


From: Joel Schiff <

There is an excellent article with lots of photos on Wabar by Wynn &
Shoemaker in Sky & Telescope, Nov, 1997, p.44-49. There they state

"It seems unlikely that the craters could have survived for several
thousand years in such an active desert environment. Based on
circumstantial evidence, we believe the impact took place sometime
between 100 and 600 years ago."

Joel Schiff


up-dated list of Holocene impact craters

Tsöörikmäe (Estonia)  c. 9,500 BP (date: Pirrus; Tiirmaa)
Mache (Russia)   c. 7,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Ilumetsa (Estonia)  c. 6,000 BP (date:Czegka)
Henbury (Australia)  c. 5,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Boxhole (Australia)  c. 5,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Morasko (Poland)  c. 5,000 BP (date: Czegka)
Campo del Cielo (Argentina) c. 4,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Rio Cuarto (Argentina)  c. 4,000 BP (date: P. Schultz)
Kaalijarvi (Estonia)  c. 4,000 BP (date: Shoemaker/Grieve)
Wabar (Saudi Arabia)  c.   600 BP (date: Wynn/Shoemaker)
Simuna (Estonia)  c.    50 BP (date: Pirrus; Tiirmaa)


L. L. Ely: Response of extreme floods in the southwestern United
States to climatic variations in the late Holocene. GEOMORPHOLOGY,
1997, Vol.19, No.3-4, pp.175-201

98926, USA

A regional synthesis of paleoflood chronologies on rivers in Arizona
and southern Utah reveals that the largest floods over the last 5000
years cluster into distinct time periods that are related to regional
and global climatic fluctuations. The flood chronologies were
constructed using fine-grained slackwater deposits that accumulate in
protected areas along the margins of bedrock canyons and selectively
preserve evidence of the largest events. High-magnitude floods were
frequent on rivers throughout the region from 5000 to 3600 C-14 yrs
BP (dendrocalibrated age = 3800-2200 BC) and increased again after
2200 BP (400 BC), with particularly prominent peaks in magnitude and
frequency around 1100-900 BP (AD 900-1100) and after 500 yrs BP (AD
1400). In contrast, the periods 3600-2200 BP (2200-400 BC) and
800-600 yrs BP (1200-1400 AD) are marked by sharp decreases in the
occurrence of large floods on these rivers.

CCCMENU CCC for 1997

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