The atmosphere recorded the mass death, slavery and war that followed 1492. The death by smallpox and warfare of an estimated 50 million native Americans—as well as the enslavement of Africans to work in the newly depopulated Americas—allowed forests to grow in former farmlands. By 1610, the growth of all those trees had sucked enough carbon dioxide out of the sky to cause a drop of at least seven parts per million in atmospheric concentrations of the most prominent greenhouse gas and start a little ice age.
Subtle Europe’s first great trick was bonding
not men in chains, but countries up in wood:
by fire and pox, Amazons and Congos
were fattened, grazed away settled pales, old
urban carbons shackled in cellulose.
Jungle-making men of cultivation,
sowing ruin, built Nature thus and loosed
a decade of arboreal cool. Eden:
blessed Abraham’s rapist children’s name
for wasted Canaan’s green and knotted scab