A new and interesting book has recently come out merging interests of archaeology and sustainability. Sustainability and Water Management in the Maya World and Beyond, edited by Jean T. Larmon, Lisa J. Lucero, and Fred Valdez Jr., investigates climate change and sustainability through time, exploring how political control of water sources, maintenance of sustainable systems, ideological relationships with water, and fluctuations in water availability have affected and been affected by social change. Contributors focus on and build upon earlier investigations of the global diversity of water management systems and the successes and failures of their employment, while applying a multitude of perspectives on sustainability.
The volume focuses primarily on the Precolumbian Maya but offers several analogous case studies outside the ancient Maya world that illustrate the pervasiveness of water’s role in sustainability, including an ethnographic study of the sustainability of small-scale, farmer-managed irrigation systems in contemporary New Mexico and the environmental consequences of Angkor’s growth into the world’s most extensive preindustrial settlement. The archaeological record offers rich data on past politics of climate change, while epigraphic and ethnographic data show how integrated the ideological, political, and environmental worlds of the Maya were.
While Sustainability and Water Management in the Maya World and Beyond stresses how lessons from the past offer invaluable insight into current approaches of adaptation, it also advances our understanding of those adaptations by making the inevitable discrepancies between past and present climate change less daunting and emphasizing the sustainable negotiations between humans and their surroundings that have been mediated by the changing climate for millennia. It will appeal to students and scholars interested in climate change, sustainability, and water management in the archaeological record.
The book can be bought at University of Colorado Press here.