Here is a brief review of Eric Cline's book, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed. Over dependence on complex systems can spell disaster. This should serve as a warning about the importance of local sustainability in globally interconnected times.
For Cline, climate change — along with the famines and migration it brought — comprised a "perfect storm" of cataclysms that weakened the great Bronze Age "global" culture. But the final blow, the deepest reason for the collapse, may have come from within the very structure of that society.
The world of the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians was complex, in the technical meaning of the word. It was a system with many agents and many overlapping connections. That complexity was both a strength and weakness. Cline points to recent research in the study of so-called complex systems that shows how susceptible they can be to cascades of disruption and failure from even small perturbations. Perhaps, Cline says, the Bronze Age societies exhibited the property called "hypercoherence" where interdependencies are so complex that stability becomes ever harder to maintain.
Thus complexity itself may have been the greatest threat to late Bronze Age civilization once the pressures began. And it is that fact, more than anything else, that speaks to the dangers we face today. As Cline wrote in the Huffington Post:
"We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an 'increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture' in which 'political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.' "
So, what exactly is the lesson Cline thinks we should take away from 1177 B.C.? In an email to me, Cline wrote:
"We should be aware that no society is invulnerable and that every society in the history of the world has ultimately collapsed. We should also be thankful that we are advanced enough to understand what is happening."
But are we advanced enough to do anything with our understanding?
Read the entire article.