The severe drought in Germany this year is exposing socalled hunger stones, which have been warning of famines that used to be associated with low rivers for centuries.
“If you see me, cry” reads the inscription on some stones that can be seen again today, part of a tradition that began in the 15th century.
Historically, travelers and residents of these regions had fewer technological resources to deal with prolonged droughts that resulted in crop losses and disruption to river transport of essential commodities.
According to the Sächsische Zeitung, dozens of hunger stones were found in Saxony this year. Typically, the writers of the notice also noted the date of the drought.
On the Elbe, the oldest inscription dates from 1417. In the following century, many identified the Hunger Stones in new periods of drought and noted the year on them. Some of the hunger stones that appeared in Germany that year were completely forgotten.
Logistical and ecological risk
Currently, the problem of drought is less the threat to agriculture and more the impact of low river levels on inland waterway transport, which according to the Association of German Industries (BDI) poses a threat to supply chains that can affect the entire economic activity.
In addition to problems for industry, this is also an ecological threat. Rising water temperatures and decreasing river depths create a toxic combination for fish and other wildlife.
“Because of the drought, we have little water on the Rhine. In addition, there are high water temperatures, and the combination of both is poison for the inhabitants of the Rhine,” said climate expert Karsten Brandt to the German magazine “Der Spiegel”.
According to Brandt, what climate models have been predicting for years is now happening, with more and more frequent droughts, also in Germany and Central Europe.