The Forces Of Nature: Our Quest To Conquest The Planet by Barry A. Vann (book review).

Author Barry A. Vann, through his book ‘The Forces Of Nature’, looks at how Man has conquered this planet. Obviously geared for the American audience, the orientation is towards the American continent than the rest of the planet. He also tackles the rather often neglected aspect of how religions, chiefly Christian and Muslim have also spread as well. I do wonder from reading this book whether Man is at heart just nomad and just wants to live everywhere although that is key to his adaptability


Oddly, there is little I can totally disagree with when it comes to this book. Indeed, if anything the biggest puzzle is why it took so long for Man to really change the Americas. The Native Americans were more in tune to it nature whereas the new settlers seem determined to make it more in the image of the places they left behind. It would have been interesting to see how certain states might have turned out had the settlers not turned the plains into a dustbowl and the effects to the weather. The fact that nothing can survive tornadoes and such in various states still seems at odds with why people still live there but then again, people also live in earthquake regions and even close to supposedly inert volcanoes. Most migratory movement is to seek more food than environmental conditions.

I did think Vann did get a little carried away looking at things like the weather in both the Bible and Koran and indeed even more modern books although this was largely to show that adverse weather conditions aren’t exactly new. Did you know that in 1887, General Aldolphus Greely, head of the US Army Signals Corps actually ordered the ban of the word ‘tornado’ from public weather forecasts simply because they couldn’t be predicted where they would happen and so for nearly fifty years nothing was done in the USA to implement warnings against them.

Vann does touch on various global warming issues although doesn’t offer much in the way of resolving them. We’ve seen the results of this ourselves in recent years and he goes over the detail of what led up to them. The major thing this will convince you of is that extreme weather is dangerous and there is no deity there to sort things out as believed by your ancestors.

Although it is said as such, one of the things I surmised from this book is that in terms of migration, Man is running out of places to go. Well, as in the case of New Orleans when the majority of its population after the flooding moved to different cities, no doubt convinced that it could easily happen again.

I do think this book will make you think a lot about the environment and ecology that we’ve inherited but whether it will guide you towards thinking of solutions I’m not so sure. I’ve often thought that the people who live in the lands subjected to tornadoes need better houses that could survive such winds. Vann points out that tornadoes raze anything man-made to the ground but logistically, you would have thought better solutions would come out of this.

If you’ve never thought about how Man spread across the globe and the effects of the weather before, then this book will give you a suitable grounding on the subject.

GF Willmetts

August 2013

(pub: Prometheus Books. 342 page indexed hardback. Price: $26.00 (US), £22.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-601-6)

check out websites: www.prometheusbooks.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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