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Category — Civilization Building

Climate change heralds end of civilisations

Paul Brown

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Arid landscape in the former ‘Fertile Crescent’ area of south-west Syria. Image; Simone Riehl/Tübingen University

New research supports the growing body of evidence that many past civilisations have collapsed because of climate change. So is history repeating itself?

Scientists looking at what is known as the “Fertile Crescent” of ancient Mesopotamia have found new evidence that drought caused by climate change brings an end to civilisations.

It is the latest study that confirms the threat posed to present civilisations in Africa, Asia and parts of the United States by changes in rainfall pattern that could lead to the abandonment of once-fertile areas − and the cities that once were fed by them.

The focus of research by a team from Tübingen University, Germany, is the area currently part of Iraq and the Persian Gulf where the development of ancient agriculture led to the rise of large cities.

Evidence from grain samples up to 12,000 years old shows that while the weather was good, the soil fertile and the irrigation system well managed, civilisation grew and prospered. When the climate changed and rainfall became intermittent, agriculture collapsed and the cities were abandoned. [Read more →]

August 13, 2014   No Comments

Climate change ‘helped to end monsoon 4,000 years ago’

Tim Radford

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A well and bathing platforms from Harappa, brought low when the monsoon weakened. Image: Obed Suhail via Wikimedia Commons

Drought appears to have played a significant part in the collapse of a vibrant community in south-west Asia several thousand years ago, British researchers say – with lessons for us today.

Climate change can seriously damage a civilisation. An “abrupt weakening” of the summer monsoon in north-west India accompanied the decline of the great cities of the Indus valley more than 4,000 years ago, according to new research by British scientists.

They analysed the oxygen isotopes in snail shells preserved in ancient lake sediments to build up a picture of rainfall patterns in prehistory, and found the first direct evidence that sustained drought contributed to the collapse of a great Bronze Age civilisation, they report in the journal Geology.

The Indus or Harappan civilisation – after Harappa, one of the five great ancient settlements of what is now Pakistan and western India – was marked by the world’s first “megacities”, concentrations of population in built-up areas that covered more than 80 hectares.

“They engaged in elaborate crafts, extensive local trade and long-ranging trade with regions as far away as the modern-day Middle East,” said Cameron Petrie of the University of Cambridge. “But by the mid-second millennium BC, all the great urban centres had dramatically reduced in size or been abandoned.”

The finding links the decline of the Indus civilisation to what now seems a much greater scale event: the failure of Early Bronze Age civilisation in Greece and Crete, the weakening of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, and the crumbling of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. [Read more →]

February 27, 2014   No Comments

Natural defenses can best protect coasts

Tim Radford

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Jon Woodruff and Christine Brandon survey sediments after Superstorm Sandy. Image: Courtesy of UMass Amherst

Many shorelines around the world are at risk – not just from extreme weather, but from far more gradual threats. And often the best protection comes from nature.

It isn’t just the catastrophic storms and tropical cyclones that threaten disaster for the world’s coastal cities. Simple, insidious things like sea level rise, coastal subsidence and the loss of wetlands could bring the sea water coursing through city streets in the decades to come.

Jonathan Woodruff of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US and colleagues report in Nature that shorelines are increasingly at risk, and humans must adapt and learn to live with increasing hazard.

Many of the world’s great cities are on low-lying coastal plains, or on river estuaries, and are therefore anyway at risk as sea levels rise because of global warming.

But human action too – by damming rivers, by extracting ground water and by building massive structures on sedimentary soils – has accelerated coastal subsidence. Add to this the possibility of more intense tropical cyclones as sea surface temperatures rise, and coastal cities face a stormy future.

On 29 October 2012 Superstorm Sandy brought a surge of sea water into the streets, subway tunnels and basements of New York City and caused $65 billion worth of damage along the entire eastern seaboard of the US. It was an unprecedented event. But it may happen again. [Read more →]

December 5, 2013   No Comments

Climate ‘toppled late Bronze Age rulers’

Tim Radford

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Temple at Knossos in Crete. Image: Yqqy via Wikimedia Commons

Recent research suggests that the rise and fall of the ancient world’s civilisations may have been due to a changing climate.

Historians and archaeologists have invoked catastrophic volcanic eruption, a tsunami, invasion, a socioeconomic crisis, new technology and mysterious forces to explain the collapse of late Bronze Age civilisation in Europe.

But a team of scientists have another explanation: climate change more than 3,000 years ago altered the course of history and bequeathed to modern Europe an enduring set of myths, and museums full of amazing archaeological finds, but very few facts.

The civilisation of the Eastern Mediterranean in the 13th century BC was real enough. This is the dramatic landscape celebrated by the great poet Homer, and in the earliest Jewish scriptures that now make up the first books of the Bible, and in the ruins of the region.

Powerful kings and autocrats ruled at Mycenae and Tiryns in the Peloponnese of Greece, the Hittites built an empire in Anatolia, in what is now Turkey, great cities flourished in Canaan, in what is now Israel, and there was a fabulous civilisation based at Knossos in Crete. [Read more →]

August 24, 2013   No Comments

Beyond Collapse: Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization From Scratch (Free Download)

Mac Slavo 
Republished from SHTFplan.com .

The following excerpt from Beyond Collapse: Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization From Scratch has been graciously provided by author TJ Miller. You may know TJ by his online persona, Odd Questioner. He has been a long-time friend and contributor to this web site, as well as many other preparedness communities. As his handle suggests, TJ takes a different approach to the ‘problem’ of surviving when the system as we know it falls apart.Beyond Collapse1.jpg

Sure, you can stock up food, and guns and thousands of dollars worth of other supplies – but if that’s your entire plan, then you’re going to be in serious trouble, especially if we’re talking about a paradigm shift spanning years or decades.

Supplies eventually run out and Murphy’s law often turns the best laid plans into catastrophe. If you haven’t taken the time to explore all of the possibilities and how you may deal with them as they happen, then in all likelihood you will be, as TJ notes in his book, “as good as dead and/or exploited.”

Beyond Collapse is an extensive guide, covering everything from why we should prepare, how a collapse may happen, what civilization may look like in its aftermath, and what steps you can take to not only prepare ahead of time, but how you’ll survive and thrive during the reconstruction and rebuilding that follow.

Excerpted from Beyond Collapse: Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization From Scratch:

The idea of this book is simple: Get you up to speed on some basic bits to stay alive and rebuild a working society. We want to get you started in gathering needed provisions (and references) to survive a collapse and its immediate aftermath, but then give you a series of resources that you can refer to, in order to help you along after the dust settles. After all, you probably won’t need or be able to use it all immediately. Things in here may be a bit intellectual or crazy at times, and I apologize in advance if it sounds that way. On the other hand, I want to drive the point home, and I want to be as precise and as factual as I can. Most of all, I want this book to do more than just help the individual survive. It takes a community to rebuild civilization, and that community is going to need help and at least some practical guidance.

Unlike most survival/preparation resources, we’re going to assume that civilization will break down completely, and will likely take at least a century or more to return to the level it is now. In such a situation, that electrical generator which too many experts recommend will end up being a glorified lawn ornament (unless of course you feel like making/storing an ocean of fuel and storing a mountain of spare parts…) The idea of having a small backyard garden is a good start, but it’s not going to feed you and your family all by itself. Expensive water filters are a good convenience while things are all chaotic, but eventually the filter elements are going to wear out, and you’re stuck with having to make your own clean water from then on. Solar panels can work for up to and beyond three decades, but the inverter, batteries, and electronics you plug into it probably won’t. Anything that relies on batteries (even rechargeable ones) are guaranteed to be worthless once the battery chemicals wear out, and there are no more to be had. Guns? A good idea for the more chaotic times, but eventually the bullets will run out, leaving you (and everyone else) with, at best, a bunch of clumsy clubs made from steel and wood. Any advice that relies on buying and storing something should only be counted as either temporary, or the (sometimes literal) seeds of renewable items, be it tools, weapons, or wheat. Some items will be vital in spite of their being temporary, but some will help you make a permanent means of living long-term after it all settles down.
[Read more →]

January 27, 2013   4 Comments

Global Village Construction Set

Open Source Ecology (OSE) is a network of farmers, engineers and supporters, whose main goal is the eventual manufacturing of the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). As described by Open Source Ecology “the GVCS is an open technological platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts.” Groups in Oberlin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and California are developing blueprints, and building prototypes in order to pass them on to Missouri. The devices themselves are built and tested on the Factor e Farm in rural Missouri.

History
Marcin Jakubowski, a physicist, founded the group in 2003. In the final year of his doctoral thesis at the University of Wisconsin, he had the feeling that science was too closed off from the world’s problems, and he wanted to go a different way. After graduation, he devoted himself entirely to OSE.

OSE made it to the world stage in 2011 when Jakubowski presented his Global Village Construction Set TED Talk. Shortly after, the GVCS won Make magazine’s Green Project Contest. The Internet blogs Gizmodo and Grist produced detailed features on OSE. Jakubowski has since become a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow (2012) and TED Senior Fellow (2012). [Read more →]

November 24, 2012   1 Comment

David Eagleman: Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization

David Eagleman may be the best combination of scientist and fiction-writer alive. Sum, his collection of afterlife alternatives, made a stunning literary debut last year and now appears in 21 languages. Simultaneously he is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, specializing in time perception.

Averting Collapse

Civilizations always think they're immortal, Eagleman noted, but they nearly always perish, leaving "nothing but ruins and scattered genetics." It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization:

1. "Try not to cough on one another." More humans have died from epidemics than from all famines and wars. Disease precipitated the fall of Greece, Rome, and the civilizations of the Americas. People used to bunch up around the infected, which pushed local disease into universal plague. Now we can head that off with Net telepresence, telemedicine, and medical alert networks. All businesses should develop a work-from-home capability for their workforce.

2. "Don't lose things." As proved by the destruction of the Alexandria Library and of the literature of Mayans and Minoans, "knowledge is hard won but easily lost." Plumbing disappeared for a thousand years when Rome fell. Inoculation was invented in China and India 700 years before Europeans rediscovered it. These days Michelangelo's David has been safely digitized in detail. Eagleman has direct access to all the literature he needs via PubMed, JSTOR, and Google Books. "Distribute, don't reinvent."

3. "Tell each other faster." Don't let natural disasters cascade. The Minoans perished for lack of the kind of tsunami alert system we now have. Countless Haitians in the recent earthquake were saved by Ushahidi.com, which aggregated cellphone field reports in real time.

[Read more →]

November 24, 2012   No Comments