Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

By Jared Diamond

The author concetrates on why and how some of the ancient as well as some modern civilizations have collapsed or succeeded and also how or why some of the modern ones are possibly going to fail.

It all seems that many, so called mysterious, society collapses have been caused at least partially by ecological problems: human populations destroyed natural resources on which their society depended. This fact has been scietifically confirmed in many cases.

The values which people cling most stubbornly under modified conditions on, are those that were previously the source of their greatest successes. When the environment is different to what the populations have lived in before, the reason for that may be they have moved places or the climate has changed (e.g. annual rainfall and/or temperatures), the same actions most likely do not bring the same results, hence collapse. The first problem would be soil abusage resulting in soil erosion which is a consequence of destroying the plant overlay, the natural protector of soil: excessive grazing, noxious weeds, logging or extremely hot forest fires, which sterilize the soil. When the forest is felled, there is no cover left to protect the steep slopes. In the lowlands consequently there are floods because of increased runoff from bare slopes, increased damage during storms and there is also a lack of fertilizers from the forests. Later on water becomes the problem, the flow is increased so in drier years there is water shortage that wouldn’t be such a problem had the watercourse not been dealt with. To add a thought of the author: »Why quarrel about water? Disputes will not bring it back.« Find and solve the core of the problem together and maybe make up for the damage we did, at least slightly.

When are we going to realize it’s not about the money? Once the resources are out, we can’t drink or eat it. The best way for companies to function is when they primarily see their own interest in the protection of the environment. Large corporations, which fundamentally do not perform work and processes that are good for the environment, but are at the same time trying to harm it as little as possible, thus they benefit, firstly themselves and most importantly, the environment. Besides, promptly identifying the possible consequences of any major interventions by preventing them in advance, has much lower costs than in case of actual environmental accidents, where the consequences have to be eliminated. Also these can never be completly eliminated. In addition, the corporations which also cooperate with the local populations, act to benefit themselves, the environment and the whole society.

To populations, living in small areas with little resources it is perfectly clear that their survival solely dependents on these resources. Such groups cannot use the frequent excuse, which is a recipe for poor management: »This is not my problem, but someone else’s.« Where people go for prestige, always short term (= bad) goals prevail. In societies where the elite cannot fence themselves off from the consequences of their actions there is less conflict of interest.

When people feep safe and secure, they tend toward reproduction excessively and it never ends up good. Starting with food; when the consumption of meat and animal products increases, it means much more agricultural waste, as for one kilogram of meat 10 to 20 kilograms of plants are required. History shows only the populatons that managed their numbers stable were able to successfully overcome the bad, poor years.

In a stable society without foreign influences both elite and farmers expect that the future will be just like the present is. The problems they see in the future, they settle with the resources available to them in the present. This is the only recipe for any civilization to survive given the environmental conditions do not drastically change.

For expanding your horizons I strongly recommend this book.

Be conscious, BSL

jared diamond book

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