Salomon Kroonenberg

Levelling the Sea

The History of Mankind’s Struggle with Sea Levels

How did our ancestors deal with changing sea levels?

Geologist Salomon Kroonenberg believes we must go easy on the earth, but not drive ourselves crazy in the process. There is plenty to worry about, but rising sea levels have little if anything to do with the results of human activity. Many people worry about the warming of the climate, but in reality nothing exceptional is happening. For those concerned about rising sea levels, Kroonenberg offers the consoling message that the earth has experienced – and survived – this sort of thing before.

About 120,000 years ago, the surface of the sea was six metres above where it is now. Amersfoort would have been a seaside town. During the coldest part of the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago, the oceans were 120 metres lower, and what is now the North Sea was dry. There were times when the sea-level rise that followed, caused by the melting of the ice caps, was happening at twenty or more times its current rate.

Our ancestors experienced unimaginable changes in sea levels, with serious consequences for their societies. In Levelling the Sea, Salomon Kroonenberg explains, in accessible terms, the fundamental causes of these changes and how we came to understand them.

Over the last six thousand years, the sea level has been relatively stable, and global measurements of the last century have not yet seen much acceleration in its rise. Considering how inventive our ancestors were at adapting to sea-level changes with the paltry means at their disposal, according to Salomon Kroonenberg, we should not worry about our ability to do so in the future. ‘I want to show how insignificant humans are,’ Kroonenberg explains. ‘We are merely a tiny cog in the works, a factor that can be almost completely discounted.

A wonderful book about sea levels, the climate and the smallness of man.

De Volkskrant

Salomon Kroonenberg

Salomon Kroonenberg studied physical geography at the University of Amsterdam and completed his doctorate there in 1976. Between 1972 and 1982 he worked as a geologist in Surinam, Swaziland and Columbia before becoming Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the Agricultural University of…

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Spiegelzee. De zeespiegelgeschiedenis van de mens (2017). Non-fiction, 271 pages.

English sample available

Themes: earth

Sample translation

English (PDF document)


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