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I'm old enough too, in fact I was recruited by the elites with my musket and powder to go save democracy and freedom in Vietnam.
Perhaps I might ask, can the entire biosphere of the world survive civilization? If civilization is an r-selected variant of the species various experiments with it's primary adaptive strategy, its ability to put together various systems we put under a category we call culture (in the anthropology technical sense of it, not just Beethoven or hip hop), if those strategies are themselves the characteristics that make the environment optimal for it's growth, is it perhaps like a cancer that is able to cultivate environments of the body, making it optimal for itself at the eventual detriment and demise of the body?
Despite that type of question, I look at all this with some degree of optimism. I think Joseph Tainter wrote a fine beginning to this study you suggest in his book: The Collapse of Complex Societies where he sets out basic characteristics of collapse that can be contrasted and compared.
I'm hopeful we humans can learn from understanding what we apprehend after studying ecology, and then recognizing that we too are adapting to this environment.
Low succession type environments where r-selected species thrive, have an abundance of primary energy sources in the food chain, which are generally limited in number. The genius of agricultural practice amounts to the conscious intervention of limiting of an environment to a few desired species. In other words a human originated strategy of reducing complexity to simplicity. If we see that the simpler, low succession environments are inherently unstable, and require energy expenditure to maintain, we could conceivably at least calculate the energy available to expend, and apply such calculations to our cultural strategies.
My hopefulness for the planet is based on the initial observation that we as a species seem to be able to do these things consciously, thus the vast array of cultural experiments by different groups that we've witnessed. But then there are a whole lot of human beliefs and entrenched institutions in between whatever results those calculations might be and their implementation.
"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse
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