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8/31/2008 -- Paranoia

Goddess mask Chichen Itza It's not a good idea reading about Chinese deforestation for chopsticks, European eco-tax cuts and American drilling-plans, when at the same time you read "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" . Not recommended! You could get close to paranoia :) The book suggests that human environmental damages were/are a deciding factor for the fate of civilizations. Specifically deforestation seem to have played a major role more than one time so far.

E.g. about studies on the Anasazi civilization at Chaco Canyon (in today's New Mexico) the book says:

"Those (...) studies identified deforestation as the other one (besides watermanagement) of the two major environmental problems caused by the growing population that had developed in Chaco Canyon by around A.D. 1000." (p. 147)

"Over the course of six centuries the human population of Chaco Canyon grew, its demands on the environment grew, its envionmental resources declined, and people came to be living increasingly close to the margin of what the environment could support." (p. 156)

Eventually, the book describes this as being the ultimate reason why the Anasazi society at Chaco Canyon collapsed - and similar reasons for other ancient societies.

The book about collapsed civilizations on the Pitcairn Islands:

"We may never know which way the movies of Pitcairn and Henderson actually ended. Regardless of the final details, though, the main outline of the story is clear. The populations (...) all inflicted heavy damage on their environments and destroyed many of the resources necessary for their own lives. Mangareva Islanders were numerous enough to survive, albeit under chronically terrifying conditions and with a drastically reduced standard of living." (p. 134)

To admit, the book's ancient examples were "locally bound" civilizations which had limited means to escape. Although some of them managed to survive in smaller numbers, there was hardly a way for them to move far enough from their then "uninhabitable habitat". They had to find ways to either reverse the damages done, or dealing with the consequences - up to forced declines in population. Naturally, limited mobility was especially an issue for civilizations on distant islands.

But in that sense, Earth is just an island as well, correct? It's all larger scale, but the principles still apply: "local" civilization destroys (environmental) foundations of living, isolation prevents escape, leading to massive disruption of society and thus decline in population.

Paranoia, as I said :) -- You won't find me dangling from a tree though - just reproducing what the mentioned book suggest and I think will lead to (with only having read the first chapters so far).

I agree with the premier counter argument, that new technology might well be able to cope with any problems that will arise (thinking at a beyond-global level, we might even be able to escape our island some day ).

Temple of the masks Chichen Itza remnants But I think it's a fair assumption, that the Anasazi, Pitcairn Islanders, Mayas and Aztecs and whichever other civilization is burried below today's cities, believed in their abilities - and being in control of the situation - as well. While as today (?), short-term needs and plain hope may have helped being oblivious to long-term risks.

"'What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?' Like modern loggers, did he shout 'Jobs, not trees!'? Or 'Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we'll find a substitute for wood'? Or: 'We don't have proof that there aren't palms somewhere else on Easter, we need more research (...)'?" (p. 114)

Not to paint a gloomy picture ... but in that particular matter I would opt for a safe way and to not tear down bridges before we know we are not heading towards a dead end. That is, for example, making sure that we do not cause a climate change and making sure we do not go beyond limits with our massive deforestation from South America to Asia.

Other options might be more fun and worry-free today, but if I were one of the last souls of my civilization, I'd probably curse my ancestors ;)

And besides being worried about humans, there is still nature itself to worry about - which tends to not-so-much benefit from technological advancement, and being even more limited in "mobility" in case of environmental changes - but that's a different story and topic for a future blog entry ...

Soooo ... paranoia just around the corner, I rather stop writing now and go have a beer instead. Local beer, of course ;)

Comments on this blog post:

110907 070139 from tajahnea

Sois derechos. rain

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