Despite claims that the post-Conquest human losses were such that global temperature may have fallen as a result, the history of the environmental impact of the Spanish Conquest in Charcas has not been written yet. Furthermore, climate change caused by Potosi is difficult to measure. The lack of sufficient and verifiable data and the fact that most of the sixteenth century saw what has been called a “little ice age”, could distort any information and makes such a task almost impossible. However, what us historians can perceive through the small fragments of evidence we can piece together is a gradual deterioration of environmental conditions caused by human action, a pattern repeated across the globe wherever human expansion gathered pace, which seems to have accelerated since the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and which is clearly connected to climate change. Unfortunately, this situation has now reached a scale that is putting our existence on the planet at risk, and difficult choices may lie ahead of us.
Mario Graña Taborelli.
PhD Candidate, Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of London.
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