How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed

America, seemingly at the apex of its glory, has never been more vulnerable. Rugged, individualistic peoples have lost site of their utter and complete dependence upon the Earth not only for resources, but also for ecosystems. A society based upon democratic consumption threatens planetary ecological integrity, and can not long persist. One of my favorite writers, Jared Diamond, investigates historically how some societies have been able to succeed while others fail when faced with such issues as climate change and resource scarcity.
The Ends of the World as We Know Them
NEW Year's weekend traditionally is a time for us to reflect, and to make resolutions based on our reflections. In this fresh year, with the United States seemingly at the height of its power and at the start of a new presidential term, Americans are increasingly concerned and divided about where we are going. How long can America remain ascendant? Where will we stand 10 years from now, or even next year?
Such questions seem especially appropriate this year. History warns us that when once-powerful societies collapse, they tend to do so quickly and unexpectedly. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise: peak power usually means peak population, peak needs, and hence peak vulnerability. What can be learned from history that could help us avoid joining the ranks of those who declined swiftly? We must expect the answers to be complex, because historical reality is complex: while some societies did indeed collapse spectacularly, others have managed to thrive for thousands of years without major reversal.

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