Collapse of Contemporary Society
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
According to experts who study the environmental and economic problems facing countries that make up the current political system of the planet, there are problems that cannot be avoided, such as human-made climate change, the increase in toxic products in the environment, the shortage of drinking water and energy sources, the decline in the photosynthetic capacity of the Earth’s plants and the pollution created by edible animals that are all potential factors in the new looming ecocide.
In the past there were societies that did not perceive the kinds of havoc they created, so they disappeared. With current technological knowledge it is a good idea to try to consider whether present human society will be able to solve its problems and to avoid collapsing, given that every society is falling into the trap of overexploiting their natural resources that are seemingly inexhaustible and remain hidden for a long time.
Many of the societies that disappeared in the past were the most creative. They were people similar in every way to people in societies today. So the crux of the matter is to get to know what differentiated the societies that disappeared from those that survived. Perhaps one of the reasons was that only certain societies experienced violent ecological disasters caused by some particular imprudence on the part of its inhabitants, by the fragility of their environment or by both at the same time. But the degree of reversibility of the damage has always been the work of humans.
According to Jared Diamond, the brilliant historian and professor at the University of California at Santa Monica, a social situation that facilitates the violent collapse of a society is the existence of a conflict between the short-term interest of the ruling elite and the long-term interest of the elite as a whole, especially if the members of the elite manage to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions, because what is good for the elite is bad for society in all spheres, and there is a real risk that the elite will do things that can lead to society’s downfall in the long term.
Diamond refers to the Scandinavians in Greenland whose society was full of competition rules where the chiefs only wanted to have more followers and more sheep to overcome neighboring chiefs. This led to over-occupation of the lands in that region, condemning the tenant farmers on the lands to live in conflict with the owners of the land and causing the eventual collapse of Scandinavian society.
Similar problems exist today in the United States where their leaders can isolate themselves from these problems of unfair competition by living in walled complexes, drinking bottled water and meeting other fundamental domestic demands. Over the past few years it has become clear that the business elite can satisfy their short-term interests by doing good things for themselves that are bad for society as a whole, such as extracting a few million dollars from Enron and other companies that are good for them in the short term and bad for society in general in the long term.
So Diamond draws a general conclusion that radical democratic societies make wrong decisions because of conflicts of interest among the elite in the upper echelons of power. In his book Collapse Diamond also makes another generalization that societies have a serious problem of making decisions when there are entrenched religious or cultural values that are good for some and bad for others.
Diamond cites the Scandinavians of Greenland who stayed together for 450 years because of their shared religious commitment and their high level of social cohesion. It was therefore very difficult for them to finally change and learn from the Inuit. Another similar case is that of Australia, whose English identity allowed them to maintain European civilization for 250 years, although that is now of little use to them in the face of the new global society. Nevertheless, that past is the main element of the country’s current political strength.
Diamond addresses the enigmas presented by the modern military world, with bombs that have timing devices for ground water, climate change, invasive species, photosynthetic ceilings, population problems, toxins and a thousand other things. With those time bombs all the timber forests of the Philippines will be lost in five years and the forests of the Solomon Islands in just one more year leaving the Philippines without its biggest export product.
Diamond suggests that all those problems be solved at the same time through the diplomatic channel seeing that the current direction of the Planet is unsustainable. Diamond concludes that this is easy, given that all these problems have been created by the human being, so it should not be difficult to solve them if he uses his intelligence.
Addendum: There is no doubt that human society will last more than the few years predicted by researchers in the field of ecology and climate change and of course the instantaneous apocalypse being pursued by Trump and the president of North Korea.