The Collapse of Global Civilization Has Begun

| October 5, 2018 | Leave a Comment

Arid soils in Mauritania | Photo by Pablo Tosco/Oxfam | Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Date of Publication: November 14, 2017

Year of Publication: 2017

Author(s): David B Lauterwasser

Newspaper: Medium

Categories: ,

But this doesn’t mean we have to give up hope.

Only the fewest today think that global civilization is on the brink of collapse — but it’s doubtful that the Romans, the Greek, the Mayans or the Mesopotamians saw their own fall coming either. We hear about new obstacles on a daily basis; most of the news consist of disturbing stories on increasingly overwhelming issues that, plainly spoken, seem impossible to solve. And yet, no one even recognizes that it is collapse that starts to unfold all around us.

Civilizations are characterized by the emergence and expansion of cities, as the Latin root of the word suggests (lat.: “civis” = inhabitant of a city), that, in some instances, turn into states. A city is a permanent settlement of humans where more humans live than their immediate environment can support. Therefore, the city requires the import of food and other resources from the surrounding area. The use of the term ‘require’ hereby implies that if the rural population doesn’t agree on exporting the product of their work, the city comes and forcefully takes it (Scott, 2017; Jensen, 2006). The city continuously expands as its population grows, requiring evermore resources from the rural surrounding, and therefore depleting an ever-increasing radius of land. Civilizations can, by definition, not be sustainable, since every expansion on a finite planet logically has a limit — and “colonizing other planets” is obviously nothing but science fiction. Earlier civilizations reached this limit after a few hundred or thousand years, but with the advancement of technology we repeatedly found loopholes that allow us to artificially modify conditions in our favor. As we slowly reach the limit of technological, physical and biological possibilities to further expand as a civilization, it is of utmost importance to understand what is happening and why.

If we can learn one thing of the past collapses of major civilizations, it is that all of those showed some (if not most) of the following symptoms during or immediately before their imminent collapse: environmental destruction, depletion of vital resources (such as water, arable soil and timber), famine, overpopulation, social and political unrest, inequality, invasion or other forms of devastating warfare, and disease.

Think for a second. I guess you will be able to come up with a current example for each of the points listed above in under a minute. If not, here are a few examples:


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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Arnold Byron

    Thank you, David Lauterwasser. You have captured the rise of humanity from its birth to hunter gatherer to agrarian to cities and nations. You have laid out the dilemma in which humanity now finds itself. I particularly like your paragraph, “We are trapped in a dilemma: we collectively decided that we “need” economic growth, yet economic growth destroys the planet and continues to deprive us of the last freedoms and resources. There is no logical approach to solving this fundamental crisis that undermines even the most basic assumptions about ourselves and our place in this world. If our economy is not growing anymore, what else is there to do? If, after all the cumulative effort, the contraption we’ve built will collapse in on itself anyway, where’s the point? Good question.”

    You and I perceive that humanity is in dire circumstances. Collapse will happen if we do nothing. I have an argument for doing something. Read on.

    The consumerism society has to change. The idea that humans have the right and destiny to use up the energy resources that Earth has made available needs to change. The notion that humans have the right and destiny to continue growing the population without regard to collapse needs to change. Why should humans live a life of convenience? Where is the point? These are deeply psychological behaviors that seem to be ingrained in the human psyche. The good question is: How does one change the psyche with regard to these behaviors?

    The answer is: when I think of the various crises facing humanity – overpopulation, global warming and nuclear disaster – it is clear that if humanity is to change it must be taught; and because the crisis is global the teacher must be established by the nations acting together.

    Who is this teacher? My vision is a global office set up by the nations of the world. If we are going to be activists in changing the human psyche so that humanity, working together, can solve the various crises, then we need to decide who are the people who can make such an office happen. These people are the regents and presidents of the colleges and universities worldwide.

    Yikes! You say. But think about it. Colleges and universities are for the most part nonpolitical and nonreligious. They are the repositories of the intellect and creativity of the world. They are respected. The presidents and regents of colleges and universities have clout. They also have the resources to make things happen.

    Please look in this MAHB blog-site for articles that I have written entitled A Plan for the Nations. There you will see that my answer is to encourage the colleges and universities worldwide to lead the effort to convince the nations that they need to act together to set up a central office and give that office the support, protection and wherewithal to begin doing the work that needs to be done to solve the planetary crises we face. I suggest that the colleges and universities worldwide create an association to which they all have membership and then create a working group to prepare all of the legal documents that will tie the nations together to the single effort to save humanity and the planet. At which point we will finally have a solid product that can be discussed around the world and sold to the nations.

    Links for my other articles can be found here. (as soon as the MAHB communications director can establish the links)