Saturday, February 25, 2012

12 environmental problems facing mankind today

The following is a quote from Wikipedia under the heading: "

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed"

He(Jared Diamond) also lists 12 environmental problems facing mankind today. The first eight have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:
  1. Deforestation and habitat destruction
  2. Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
  3. Water management problems
  4. Overhunting
  5. Overfishing
  6. Effects of introduced species on native species
  7. Overpopulation
  8. Increased per-capita impact of people
Further, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:
  1. Anthropogenic climate change
  2. Buildup of toxins in the environment
  3. Energy shortages
  4. Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity
Diamond also writes about cultural factors, such as the apparent reluctance of the Greenland Norse to eat fish.

Diamond says Easter Island provides the best historical example of a societal collapse in isolation
The root problem in all but one of Diamond's factors leading to collapse is overpopulation relative to the practicable (as opposed to the ideal theoretical) carrying capacity of the environment. The one factor not related to overpopulation is the harmful effect of accidentally or intentionally introducing nonnative species to a region.
Diamond also states that "it would be absurd to claim that environmental damage must be a major factor in all collapses: the collapse of the Soviet Union is a modern counter-example, and the destruction of Carthage by Rome in 146 BC is an ancient one. It's obviously true that military or economic factors alone may suffice" (p. 15). end quote from wikipedia.

So,  often the things that bring down civilizations are completely unexpected by those Civilizations until it is too late. Often a civilization might be looking in the wrong direction for a threat and overlook its real problems or fluke problems. For example, number 8 "Increased per capita impact on the environment is something that is happening now especially in the BRIC nations. On one level we should all be happy and grateful as many more move out of poverty and into the middle class. But on another level "Can civilization worldwide really support that much increased per capita impact at this time?"

For example, watch the price of gasoline worldwide go up. It is possible that there is nothing any nation or group of nations  can do to stop the meteoric rise of gasoline on up to $7 to $10 a gallon here in the U.S.  But since $10 a gallon would be 5 times what it was a couple of years ago can ANY society on earth sustain itself with OIl prices this high without going back to the 19th century and bicycles and horses and steam engines run on coal and wood?

However, I sort of had to laugh at myself when I looked up the price of gas already in England. It is almost $10 a gallon there right now. So, I guess if England can figure out a way to live with $10 a gallon gasoline maybe the U.S. will have to learn too.

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