Can of (Global) Warming

The Green Side of One
of World’s Worst Killers

It took over seven centuries but researchers are finally coming around to identify redeeming qualities in the “work” of feared Mongol General Genghis Khan. Up to now, everyone was convinced that when he got busy creating his vast empire in the 13th and 14th Centuries, invading and pillaging nations, and pretty much annihilating anyone standing on his way, he was doing that just for his thirst for blood.
Oh, how wrong we all were. For yes, he did kill about 40 million of his closest enemies, either because they opposed his plans of world domination or didn’t like his hairstyle, but all he had at heart was the best interests of future generations, we know now. You see, years after his horse-driven, bow-wielding hordes left on their wake carnage and smoldering villages, the paths they galloped on got covered by an explosion of lush vegetation, that helped remove nearly 700million tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
A new study by the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Energy concluded that he was a truly eco-warrior who deserves our respect, not just the fear of his blood-soaked sword. Good ol’ Gengis was, after all, as old fashioned as any garden variety conqueror, and would rather nip the bud, so to speak, of any potential disaffect than to see him grow into another inconvenient enemy. Just like any modern despot next door, wouldn’t you say?
Consider that the next time you spot someone holding a blood soaked sword coming your way. To give you some context, the study also found that many of history’s tragic events, such as the Black Plague, the fall of China’s Ming Dynasty and the conquest of the Americas don’t look so bad when you think they also ignited a widespread return of forests after a period of massive depopulation, i.e., mass murdering.
But no one perfected and accelerated this transformation from body to soil nutrients as Genghis Khan. And the Mongol invasion, which lasted a century and a half and led to an empire spanning 22 per cent of the Earth’s surface, immediately stood out for its longevity. As his troops repeatedly wiped out entire settlements, they were able to scrub more carbon from the atmosphere than any other conqueror ever since.
The findings of the study add yet another dimension to the biography of Temüjin of the Borjigin, his real name, along with the unification of the Mongolian tribes and the conquering of territories as far apart as Afghanistan and northern China, where he left mountains of skulls behind. In all, Genghis conquered almost four times more lands than Alexander the Great.
By the way, those 700million tons of carbon are roughly the amount generated in a year by global consumption of petroleum-based fuels. But before you start longing for another Gengis Khan to arise and solve our environmental woes, keep in mind that his reputation as one of the cruelest war leaders that ever singed his name on history books is far from hyperbolic and unlikely to change, the psychobabble about his sad childhood notwithstanding.
What the Carnegie study on the effects of, ahem, the carnage left by the Mongolian does point to is to new ways of making land-use decisions today that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle. Besides, since there are so many more people living on Earth now, it’d be at least anti-practical to apply his methods to optimize forest cultivation and carbon absorption systems. A much better way is, of course, to simply abandon carbon-based energy fuels. So if you are gingerly preparing the way for a new Gengis, please don’t.

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