December 13th, 2008

Collapse, Take One

For those with an interest, and with an Internet capacity for streaming video, there is a nice PBS video on archaeology's take on the collapse of societies, especially in connection to agriculture and overpopulation. One "fly in the ointment" for the increasing push to make us "a nation of farmers" is that that's all well and good, but ultimately, soils can only take so much use without fallow periods, including backyard gardens, and petro-based fertilizers is not the answer. In addition, there is a problem of overuse and irrigation involving salinization of soils. Finally, the evidence is that while the elite groups at the top may experience a rapid collapse of a couple of years to a generation, the common folk retrench somewhat and survive in an attenuated manner of slow decline for a few hundred years until the soils can't take anymore, and then comes the last gasp. Of course that was at a totally different scale of impact than we face today, when there isn't any place to move where there aren't already people also in trouble. See the streaming video, Episode #8 "Collapse," in the "Out of the Past Series", at:
http://www.learner.org/resources/series45.html