Luke Kemp writes:
Collapse can be defined as a rapid and enduring loss of population, identity and socio-economic complexity. Public services crumble and disorder ensues as government loses control of its monopoly on violence. Virtually all past civilisations have faced this fate. Some recovered or transformed, such as the Chinese and Egyptian. Other collapses were permanent, as was the case of Easter Island. Sometimes the cities at the epicentre of collapse are revived, as was the case with Rome. In other cases, such as the Mayan ruins, they are left abandoned as a mausoleum for future tourists. What can this tell us about the future of global modern civilisation?
It is widely believed that modern society is in sharp decline. Among the ills cited are skyrocketing rates of crime, divorce, teenage sex, teenage births and drug abuse; war; and a general decline in personal morality and religiosity. There is also concern that modern science and technology is leading to a widening of the gap in living conditions and educational opportunities between prosperous first-world nations and impoverished third-world nations. Such concerns are raised by both the secular left and the religious right. So what are the real facts here?
European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people over about 100 years in South, Central and North America, causing large swaths of farmland to be abandoned and reforested. The increase in trees and vegetation across an area the size of France resulted in a massive decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Before this study, some scientists had argued the temperature change in the 1600s, called the Little Ice Age, was caused only by natural forces. But by combining archaeological evidence, historical data and analysis of carbon found in Antarctic ice, the UCL researchers showed how the reforestation — directly caused by the Europeans’ arrival — was a key component of the global chill. The depopulation of the Americas may have inadvertently allowed the Europeans to dominate the world. It also allowed for the Industrial Revolution and for Europeans to continue that domination…