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Collapse of Empires & Civilizations

All civilizations collapse eventually. Historians, anthropologists, and other social scientists understand the common reasons for collapse. No society appears to avoid this inevitable destiny.

Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.
                                                                          - Marcus Aurelius

Once men are caught up in an event they cease to be afraid. Only the unknown frightens men.
                                                           - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Most of us are fascinated by stories of collapse whether it takes the form of reading scholarly treatises on the fall of the Roman Empire or watching Mad Max 2 (a.k.a. Road Warrior) for the sixth time. The popularity of Jared Diamond's recent book Collapse as well as rekindled interest in older tomes such as Joseph A. Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies underscores this point. There is also a growing interest interest in tribalism as people begin to look for alternative social and support systems as the old ways begin to show signs of breaking down.

For these reasons, I have decided to include a list of essays and articles on possible collapse because such an event could be triggered by energy descent.

Let us know about other writings which should be included here. Click to email a link.

The Long Road Down: Decline and the Deindustrial Future by John Michael Greer

When it comes to the future most people fall into one of two extreme camps. There are those who envision an ever-brighter future which will be brought about by never-ending technological innovation. Think Star Trek. Then there are those who see an apocalyptic collapse once the oil runs out. Think Road Warrior.

In this essay John Michael Greer explains how the future will most likely unfold based on our knowledge of previous civilizations.

"Yet an odd blindness affects attempts to make sense of our predicament. People on all sides of the debate talk as though the future has only two possible shapes: progress or apocalypse, either business as usual for the foreseeable future or a catastrophic slide into savagery and mass death. Whether the topic is global warming, renewable energy, fossil fuel depletion, or anything else, the same claims repeat like a broken record. One side insists that technology will inevitably solve our problems and yield a better life for all, while the other side brandishes worst case scenarios and talks of millions of corpses. It should be obvious that these aren't the only possibilities. The fact that this isn't obvious at all is worth exploring."

Read the article at Energy Bulletin.

Progress as Modern Mythology
by John Michael Greer

"lt's time for humanity to adopt a new myth. The current one which tells us that growth is infinite and the solution to its own set of problems is falling apart. Everyday fewer and fewer people believe it.

'Amythia,' the pathological lack of myths, has been diagnosed as the root cause of any number of modern sociological and psychological evils. (1) The irony here is not a small one, for whatever else may be at the root of our many problems, a myth shortage is not. The loss of belief in the central myths of Christianity and Judaism, on the part of most educated people in the Western world, did not happen because people stopped believing in myths. It happened because a new and more appealing myth seized the collective imagination of the West and, as myths do, restructured the universe of human experience in its own image.

The name of this new myth, the myth that has dominated the imagination of the Western world for some three hundred years, is 'Progress'."

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
                                                                       - Edward Abbey

Read the article at The Last Wizards.

If we don't change our course, we'll end up where we're headed.

                                                           - Chinese proverb
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