Skip to content

“Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”

May 19, 2020

Far be it from me to hint that doom is right on our doorstep, I leave it to the president to keep on making that apparent to his thinking constituents.

But there is plenty of evidence, from leading scientists and historians, that collapse, of not right on our doorstep, is rumbling up the block from the nearest corner.

I commend to you Jared Diamond’s estimable 2005 detailed study of “Collapse: How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed.” It is a comparative history of a number of human societies that arose, grew, succeeded, and then failed into oblivion. To the armchair historian, they will be familiar: Easter Island, the Anasazi in the southwest states of the USA, the Maya, Norse Greenland. The world as we know it. . . . (That last bit is a warning. Read this book and take heed.)

The civilizations cited each had their day, quite successful some of them, before quietly disappearing. Diamond cites five overarching reasons how this came to pass, most of which were beyond the immediate control of the citizens of those civilisations. “Demands on the environment grew,” notes Diamond, “its environmental resources declined, and people came to be living increasingly close to the margin of what the environment could support.”

All of a sudden, coronavirus takes hold, societies try to fight it by shutting down, and the once-humming economy stops dead, taking with it the wherewithal of millions of unsuspecting and unprepared workers.

Take heed. “All of us moderns can get away a lot of waste when the economy is good,” he says. Just like those ancient, vanished civilizations, “We forget that conditions fluctuate, and we may not be able to anticipate when conditions will change.”

So we are discovering. What’s next?

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: