Living in the United States during the Covid-19 pandemic feels like watching the sun go down on a crumbling empire. The world’s wealthiest country has experienced more deaths and suffered a greater economic shock than any of its peers. Staggering levels of unemployment and eviction are looming, not to mention a potentially chaotic November election. We can’t help but think back to our 2017 interview with classicist Kyle Harper, who in his book, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, advanced a new theory about why and how the empire fell … under circumstances alarmingly similar to our own. Though the decline of Rome has been a favored subject of armchair theorists for as long as there have been armchairs, Harper’s hypothesis points to many of the same problems we’re wrestling with today.
Go beyond the episode:
- Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire
- Read an excerpt from the book on how the Huns laid waste to the Eternal City
- How we can learn from Rome’s experience with epidemics to contend with emerging diseases today
- Pandemics should scare you: here’s how tropical diseases are on the rise in our own back yard
- Our interview with epidemiologist Rob Wallace, who points to how climate change and factory farming led to the Covid-19 pandemic
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
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