Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Societal Collapse: environment and population

Anybody read Jared Diamond's Collapse? He is the guy who wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel.

I am getting to the end, and it is a pretty fascinating look at societies through history that failed to adapt to environmental change or population growth. Particularly interesting was the look at the background causation of Rwanda.

He has some examples of societies that have managed to live and thrive in very small areas that were environmetally fragile, such as Iceland, and some Pacific islands, where they really did effectively control population growth, through various means. One society had parents forego having more kids once thier oldest could reproduce, and used various means of population control (including distasteful means of infanticide, abortion, and suicide) but they have lived for thousands of years with a population of only about 15oo people on an island (Tikopia). When the Brits came in in the early 20th century and imposed britinsh rules, the society ballooned, but the Brits backed off and allowed them to go back to more traditional ways (although also allowed exmigration.)

Diamond's view is more about the environment as a primary factor in all collapses, but his examples often come to a head due to population pressure resulting from technological changes that provided more food in the short term, but could not be sustained, fracturing social standards and creating short term survival needs that outweighed social planning.

I think you could come to the conclusion that the biggest western export that causes societal collapse in Africa and the rest of the third world is medical advances that the society cannot incorporate because the resulting population pressure overwhelms the societal capacity to feed, educate, and utilize productively.

It is another symptom of unintended consequences...Try and do good by providing food, and you destroy local farmers; donate clothes, and you destroy the middle class that makes textiles; provide medicine, and overpopulate the area and create tension over resources, and destroy the capacity for the land to recover...

The number one pollution issue on earth is the sheer number of people living. We need to control this growth and reduce numbers if we are to survive on this planet.

All green issues, from green house gasses, fossil fuel availability, depletion of fisheries, destruction of the rain forest, to the need for GM foods are due to the growing population on earth. Lets take control of the number one source of pollution and control it. The rest of the green issues will take care of themselves, if we step forward and take care of this one.

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