Friday, June 15, 2012

Looking back on collapse: another documentary

The Romans, the Maya, the Anasazi, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Norse Greenland and many more: dozens of previous civilisations have reached a point where they have undergone more or less rapid and irreversible transition from high to low social complexity, usually known as societal collapse. I've blogged before about two of the best-known theorists of societal collapse, Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond and have just come across a recent documentary called 2210: The Collapse? in which the ideas of Prof Tainter and Prof Diamond are quite usefully summarised into a 93 minute presentation. Some of the documentary's framing, with 23rd century archeologists trying to piece together the causes of the collapse of our present global industrial society (à la Age of Stupid), gets a little repetitive and gimmicky, but the ideas are important and the presentation lucid. We are not exempt from the brutal logic that placed temporal limits of previous civilisations. But we are in a unique situation: with a global economy, any future collapse will likely be global and with seven billion or more now alive, that's a lot of eggs in one basket. Put it on your "to view" list.