Meet Genghis Khan (pronounced with “j” sounds if you’re John Kerry): Environmental hero. How did a man who lived hundreds of years ago manage to become “history’s greenest conqueror?” By killing lots and lots of people.
Over the course of the century and a half run of the Mongol Empire, about 22 percent of the world’s total land area had been conquered and an estimated 40 million people were slaughtered by the horse-driven, bow-wielding hordes. Depopulation over such a large swathe of land meant that countless numbers of cultivated fields eventually returned to forests.
In other words, one effect of Genghis Khan’s unrelenting invasion was widespread reforestation, and the re-growth of those forests meant that more carbon could be absorbed from the atmosphere.
Uh, yay? The saddest aspect of this victory for Khan is that it isn’t coming from some fringe outfit or even the publicity-hungry zealots at PETA or Greenpeace. The study was done by the Carnegie Institute and the Max Planck Institute, very mainstream scientific research institutions.