Collapse by Jared Diamond:
In this new book, (Collapse. Jared Diamond. Penguin Books, New York, 2006) the author examines the decline of a number of societies in different centuries and different locations and finds a common theme of environmental degradation in all of them. Having grown up in Florida in the 20th century, I am certainly a believer in the concept that civilizations trash environments. I used to know the famous Archie Carr, perhaps the states greatest biologist, who once remarked that it was no longer a question of destroying the environment in Florida, it was just a matter of rubbing out little bits here and there that had been overlooked in the initial rush.
Since that was said, they have found a bit along the bend of the Gulf Coast. An enormous highway has been built from the heart of Tampa north and somewhat west into are area that remains, and as long as we are spared by the sagging economy will remain, howling wilderness. If you ever want to have a modern multi-lane limited access road all to yourself for a long time, take that drive. The coast is heavily forested swamp, so there is not much land to build on, and the water is shallow, tending to drop at a rate of about one foot per mile as you go out from the shore. As waterfront property goes, it has neither useable water nor property. But since it is empty, the land is cheap and developers see an opportunity, on the strength of which they apparently managed to corral enough tax money to build the road.
As you go inland through the sparsely settled interior, you will pass utility pole after utility pole sporting new, massive and fabulously expensive transformers serving nobody. Evidently our utility brethren have got in on the act, too. With nauseating irony, the powers that be (That’s a masterpiece of euphemism. I could be more specific as to what they do to us, but I couldn’t say it in public.) have decided to call the area the Nature Coast. The only appealing thing about the area was that there was nobody there. So I am in full agreement that civilization is bad for nature.
And in the biggest picture, I must agree that environment trumps everything else. Given a good environment, you will eventually get human beings. At least it happened once before. But lacking an environment, you will promptly lose human beings. But I do not see the environment as being the only issue. I am not alone.
Diamond joins a host of others in proclaiming that the disappearance of Mayans was due to a sustained drought. The best modern opinion appears to be that things are not quite so simple. (A New Look at the Mayas’s End. Heather Pringle. SCIENCE volume 324 number 5926 April 24, 2008 page 454) Drought was only one factor. In all fairness, Diamond does recognize on page 175 that low birth rate may also have been a factor.
Diamond does insist that another factor is that authorities seem to have been unaccountably short sighted in addressing impending disasters, the very kind of thing they are expected to forestall, and for the prevention of which they are well paid and highly respected. This, of course, is congruent with my own experience. The recognized authorities I have attempted to reach have pretty much ignored the issue of our own malignant and progressive infertility. At least they have ignored me.
Well, maybe that will all change tomorrow.
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