Few think Western civilization is on the brink of collapse—but it's also doubtful the Romans and Mesopotamians saw their own demise coming either.Where is this coming from? Civilizational collapse does not, in fact, tend to come out of nowhere. The "fall of the Roman Empire" was such a long process that the factors some people are in the habit of citing (dictatorship, bread and circuses) go back 400-500 years before Romulus Augustus, the last Western emperor, was deposed by Odoacer. The late empire was in obvious decline for at least a hundred years before the "fall", with an increasing tempo of coups and civil wars, incursions by Germanic tribes, and slowing productions and population.
Undaunted by such concerns, the article goes on:
If we're to avoid their fate, we'll need policies to reduce economic inequality and preserve natural resources, according to a NASA-funded study that looked at the collapses of previous societies.There is some evidence for resource based collapses. For instance, there's some evidence that the "dark age" between the Bronze Age civilizations and the Iron Age ones had to do with a collapse natural resources needed for making bronze. However, a lot of over civilizational collapses are hard to pin on resource issues. And inequality? What are the two longest lasting civilizations to date? The Chinese Empires and the Egyptian Empires -- both societies so unequal they were divided between a vast majority living as farmers near the edge of subsistence and an emperor who was believed to be a god.
"Two important features seem to appear across societies that have collapsed," reads the study. "The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses."
In unequal societies, researchers said, "collapse is difficult to avoid.... Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society."
As limited resources plague the working class, the wealthy, insulated from the problem, "continue consuming unequally" and exacerbate the issue, the study said.
We as members of liberal democratic society may see that kind of society as backwards and doomed to fail (and I think we're right to reject many of their basic values), but the fact is that they were in many ways far, far more stable as societies and political structures and democratic modern states with far more equality.