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View Diary: Debating the fall of civilization:  is it nonsense? (57 comments)

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  •  my greatgrandmother too lived without running (4+ / 0-)
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    kalmoth, allep10, Larsstephens, etbnc

    water and electricity for most of her live, her house being wired when she was in her early 80s. Rain barrels, well and hand pump, outhouse, coal stove and oil lanterns, foot powered sewing machine, all these things she had and used and I saw when we visited.

    Yet every one of those call from industrialized society that used piped water and electricity to manufacture them. During the lives of her grandparents there was no electricity and water may have come from flumes, canals, and local piping, but this did not make the footprint of objects produced smaller than those she had.

    Much of the transitional periods of civilization oft pointed to as "a simpler time and way" were themselves out of balance and avoided catastrophe only through new technologies.  England turned to coal because its forests were being stripped, the oil lamps my grandmother used were fueled by kerosene but those her mother used were filled with whale oil - need we say much on the sustainability of that. There's good evidence that England was pushing into food shortages shortly before the Black Death and other plagues greatly reduced population levels, technological advances supported greater population size by the time it had recovered from the plagues.

    The introduction agriculture coincides with a drop in human life expectancy only only slowly recovered as technology crept forward, showing more rapid improvements in the Industrial Age.  Many of those early agricultural societies destroyed themselves through resource exhaustion, or used aggressive expansion to avoid the collapse.  It is possible that earlier tech-social structures are not long term stable, outside of hunter-gather and heavily regulated farming ones; those imply a very small population or a rather oppressive and hierarchical situation.


    •  solar and wind power (1+ / 0-)
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      wondering if

      (geothermal too) kind of changes that.  We would be able to manufacture without unrenewable resourses.  The conveniences of light, communication, cooking etc. can now be had off grid with no carbon impact at all.  Same for farming.  Intelligently farmed land can support two three times our current population.  It's not your great granpappy's farm anymore (or, it won't be).  There isn't any reason to go luddite and stop using the things (like information technology) that actually improve our lives.

      It's a matter of shifting our sense of what's important away from the capitalist idea of everybody (in some fantasy) living inn their own McMansion and drivingalone in their car to work  toward a different set of sensibilities that values community, quiet, health (from clean air and good food).

      It isn't out of reach.  The problem is that our lifestyles are based on a 17th century idea --capitalism.  

      •  while I'll agree with most of that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Urizen, don mikulecky

        there are issues as to how well the transition to renewable can be done. Most renewable sources of power are fairly diffused, heavy investments are required to bring power use intensities down to levels supported by those diffuse sources without extensive energy farms and expanded power grid - something that the majority of renewables boosters here seem to oppose, wanted the individualistic solar panel on the roof as the solution.

        And changing the life styles of the majority isn't going to be easy. While there are people living simple now, there always have been some who removed themselves from the normal lifestyles - consider the anchorites of the Middle Ages. On top of that many seem to adopt the simpler styles for a period, only to move back towards more conventional ones.

        I suspect that such a change in society would take some very clever and competent social engineering.  I think that it would be fighting some pretty wired down aspects of our brains that lead us in the direction of current societies; apes will 'pay' in treats to view images of porn (pictures of the bottoms of female apes in estrus) and celebrities (pictures of apes high in the group's hierarchy), and to aquire items of status.  The corruption of many movements by the lure of wealth, power, and status, indicates that there are some basic drives toward those; a 'new direction' will need to offset or satisfy those drives in some new fashion.

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