Correlation between Rainfall and Witch Killings

jidriftwoodbeachtrunk2006Nicholas Kristof’s column in the NYT today — “Extended Forecast: Bloodshed” — connects the killing of witches with the environmental affects of climate change:

“Here’s a forecast for a particularly bizarre consequence of climate change: more executions of witches.  As we pump out greenhouse gases, most of the discussion focuses on direct consequences like rising seas or aggravated hurricanes. But the indirect social and political impact in poor countries may be even more far-reaching, including upheavals and civil wars — and even more witches hacked to death with machetes.

“In rural Tanzania, murders of elderly women accused of witchcraft are a very common form of homicide. And when Tanzania suffers unusual rainfall — either drought or flooding — witch-killings double, according to research by Edward Miguel, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

“‘In bad years, the killings explode,’ Professor Miguel said. He believes that if climate change causes more drought years in Tanzania, the result will be more elderly women executed there and in other poor countries that still commonly attack supposed witches.”

Kristof also looks at the strong relationship between economic hard times and lynchings, civil wars, and other forms of  violence against ‘the other’ who is judged to have caused the hardship.


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