Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jared Diamond - Collapse

In talking about the dire water situation in California, Nevada and the Southwest, this documentary came to mind.  It was produced some years ago and was based loosely on Professor Jared Diamond's book  Collapse, how Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

The book deals with specific examples of  complex human societies that failed when placed under external stress such as drought,  climate change, or changes in the weather pattern.

The DVD program examines early 21st century life, the challenges we face, and our response to external stresses, or lack of response.  A large segment of the documentary is devoted to the drought situation in America.  It goes into the mechanics of drought and of the water supply in great detail.  Although the program was produced before the politicians had acknowledged the degree of danger involved, it remains relevant to our situation today.

The program is available either on DVD through Amazon, or you can watch rather blurry but free versions on the internet. It's worth the time involved.

A link to a related article in New Scientist Magazine.

New Scientist Magazine - Why the Demise of Civilization May Be Inevitable.


  1. Hey Harry,


    What you wrote on the previous post to Vicki about how you see the climate changing was interesting.
    Most who tout climate change have a social political agenda based on some kind of fascism/socialism of some sort and too read your observation was refreshing, albeit you have no political or social agenda.

    On the collapse societies thing.

    I don't see our climate across the country changing fast enough to cause some kind of famine of some sort.
    I do believe an economic collapse, nuclear war in the Persian Gulf, man made diseases to destroy crops (a form of biological warfare) and a few other calamities are of much greater concern.

    One thing I have to point out. Throughout history, crops have failed and societies have collapsed and so on.
    What humans are really good at is 'migrating. We move easily and are a very, very adaptable species and can survive almost anything. The bad part is things like the Constitution, our country and way of life, will most likely become a footnote in history books.

  2. CC, I think"climate change" implies that such changes are totally human induced. That philosophy has been hijacked by extremists who have their own agendas. I do think that weather for a specific region may change when natural forces are modified by naturally occurring factors.

    I don't think that we could go under as a result of this drought. But if you look at all the other factors that are shaking our fragile system. You have to wonder what the straw that broke the camel's back will be. Our impossible national debt, overpopulation, a nonhomogenous population without a common culture or language, a Balkanized society that competes among itself for power and resources, an economy that enriches a few who control everything while the vast majority scrabble harder for less all come to mind. When you throw in incessant wars against the barbarians, diminishing resources, and the graying of the population, things just don't look too good to me. I think you are right, the species will survive but at what societal level?

  3. Poor California is in for some tough times if they don't get rain, so are the rest of us since we get the majority of our food from there. I don't wan to rely on Mexico or other imports. One of the considerations on where to live, for us, would be access to natural water sources. CA is really desert and could potentially go back there. We are fortunate to be in the area that has a lot of natural springs and rivers although we have been in drought before.

    1. Kathy, the availability of water was a primary consideration with us, as well. When I was overseas I was deployed to some places that didn't have water readily available, and we were limited to small amounts for personal consumption. It's surprising how you can long for a shower, or clean clothing, or just to wash your face. When I got out and was looking for a permanent home, I wanted to be sure that whatever happened, I'd never have water issues as far as it as humanly possible to do so.

      California has had droughts on and off, but this one is a behemoth and they didn't react in a timely manner. It's always easier to put off hard decisions until "tomorrow", or until you don't have to make them and someone else gets stuck with it. That's what has happened in California.

    2. Kathy....Most turkey is grown in Minnesota....some of the best farmland in the country is in Kentucky, We all have space be it small or just a balcony to grow some of our own food. It seems to me the fact that food could be grown much closer to the markets of the east than grown in the far western reaches of this country are seemingly being completely over looked! I think the fall if it comes will be a wide set of events from a global series of events....the most major being the potential financial collapse. We as responsible citizens have got to make the hard decisions now...US, OURSELVES and decide not to rely on the government to solve these issues with new laws. Personal responsibility is a major factor that we have the power to use!
      As to climate change....this earth of our is a huge ecosystem and it is going to have variables in the weather, averages are made by using data from a long period of time..our time of climate measure is not long enough to give true readings.

    3. Very god video with only a few politically correct inaccuracies....but it will make people think I hope!

    4. Most of the fruit and vegetables in the grocery store do come from the Imperial Valley, so even though I don't care for Jerry Brown he's got a pont there, Fiona. For self reliant people, its' not that terrifying a thought that this source might dry up, because they can raise their own food. I am constantly amazed at the food Dani, Tania, Kymber, Kathy, and some of the other ladies grow in their gardens. Both the quality and the quantity are mind boggling to me. That's why I am trying again to have a little garden myself this year. Last year a big rain storm washed out all my raised beds so this year I am just planting in the ground.

      The weather here has been changing significantly for some years now. I can't postulate a "cause" but I can sure feel the effects. Today, for instance, the high in Atlanta is supposed to be near 90, 20 degrees warmer than it should be this time of year. The last two winters have been nothing short of hellish in terms of low temperatures, and the summers are much hotter than they used to be. It's the negative effects on the little area I live in that worry me most.

      I like that video too. I thought the water aspects were particularly interesting.

  4. Harry - Both this post and the previous one are serious indications of climate change. We, too, are experiencing dryer winters (in a winter rainfall area) and much hotter summers - 40 - 42oC here in the Mediterranean climate of the Western Cape is not normal.

    World-wide food production is going to be adversely affected, and that will probably be the wake up call of all the nay-sayers. Growing your own food will certainly help to stave off your fresh food restrictions, and provide you and your wife with the necessary vitamins / roughage. That, added to the food you have stored, will place you in a far better position than many others.

    Man has lived through a time of excess - both during the height of the Roman Empire, as well as in recent decades. Reality has to clock in again. The poor will suffer most, but the wealthy will not escape the effects. History has a way of repeating itself, and unfortunately, nobody seems to be learning the lesson that history is trying to teach...

    1. There was a program on the History Channel some years ago. It was about "The Little Ice Age."

      From around 1300 til the end of the 19th century, the weather changed from the "Medieval Warm" to colder, and drier. There are all sorts of theories as to why, but no one questions that the change took place. The impact on society was substantial.

      Now it seems that something of the same sort is happening. You have to be careful when using the term "Climate Change" here in the States, because it really has been appropriated by left wing groups hell bent on making American society conform to their version of a green Utopia in which everybody rides bicycles and lives in yurts. Just doing a post on Climate Change would set off a row.

      But the statistics are certainly supportive of some sort of weather related phenomenon, and here in Georgia , our weather is changing. The winters are colder and longer. The summers are hotter and we are getting all sorts of new insect pests and diseases as a result.

      Food production is falling off, spectacularly so in some parts of China, for instance, where desertification is increasing. Water is a serious problem, the glaciers in some parts of the world are simply disappearing. I was looking at some "before" and "after" photos of Glacier National Park, and it was pretty grim. The fact that a massive chunk of the antarctic ice sheet broke off and floated away a few years ago wasn't very encouraging either.

      There's a theory that human civilization runs in cycles, regardless of the level of technological achievement, and that we are on the wind down of this cycle. It wouldn't surprise me.

  5. Going to see if the library has this one!