collapsing and retrenching civilisations
a briefing document
|population||tragedy of the commons||land conservation and food production||On housing and making living systems ecological|
|sustainable manufacture||GDP and other quality of life measurements||ecologically collapsing and retrenching civilisations: written sources||global warming briefing documents|
|pressure on water resources||power, ownership and freedom||energy briefing documents|
Collapse is ponderous at times, but it is vital that the data gets ‘out there’ as soon as possible. It is at least good enough to serve the purpose and that is enough for me lacking anything else since the rapidly dating A green history of the world.
For several years I have been whingeing that this book, Collapse, should be written. Despite the shortcomings, I think the lessons of this book are so important and, for the lack of anything better, I am going to recommend it.
While Jared Diamond does refer in passing to specific industries from his own knowledge, such as oil, mining and forestry, his discussion of the nuts and bolts of ecology is much more limited than is Ponting’s. The strength of the book is in the collecting together of large numbers of case studies of previous collapsing societies and societies under stress.
Several reviews have waxed lyrical about the 100 of 550 pages that are devoted to difficulties in Norse lands. As far as I am concerned, the book would have been better without it. Diamond writes in lifeless, tedious prose, and struggling through the book I regard as hard work. In fact, he could have lost yet another hundred pages to great advantage.
Nevertheless, as with so much poorly written science popularisation, this is probably the best you have at the moment. It does not, however, fully surplant Ponting’s work, reviewed below. In summary, the prime value of this book is in the case studies, which fortunately comprise the bulk of the book. Unless you are coming new to this area, better to regard this work as a data source, than to bring expectations of theoretical insight to the joy of reading it.
I would recommend this book as an introductory reader for any relevant studies, as well as being very useful background for those trying to keep abreast of a rapidly changing modern world. For a more extensive review.
This book endlessly catalogues the despoliation of planetary resources in a wide range of areas of history, activities and geography.
At times it goes over the top, as is common with material coming out of the evangelising green lobby. This can undermine the message at times, when the political agenda tends to overwhelm the real on the ground facts, or when the author is carried away with the shallow capitalism bad mantra.
There are very real problems with population and resource pressures. It does no good to exaggerate these problems, as that makes them too easy to be dismissed by those who would rather not face the problems, but instead hope to carry on with business as usual.
The book is now a dozen years out of date, which is a very long time in this growing field. It could very much do with an update. However, the wide ranging history covered, its application to the rise and fall of civilisations and its dire warning for the future, make this a resource of considerable value.
This book should form part of any modern civics curriculum, but should be read and used with caution.
end of the line by Charles Clover, Ebury
Press, 2004, hbk, 0091897807, £8.99
Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse is probably worth a quick scan, despite being over-loaded by redundant jargon. The item compares catastrophically collapsing civilisations with those adjusting to a lesser but more stable lifestyle through varying accidents.
The authors appear to take an information-theoretic approach to social collapse. This looks either trivial or unconvincing or irrelevant in the context of the ecological collapse, but you may wish to know about it.
From a review at amazon:
|Related further documents|
|population||GDP and other quality of life measurements|
|land conservation and food production||power, ownership and freedom|
|sustainable manufacture||energy briefing documents|
|tragedy of the commons|
email abelard at abelard.org
© abelard, 2005,09 march
the address for this document is http://www.abelard.org/briefings/civilisations.htm
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