As the year comes to a close, it is sometimes instructive to reflect back on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we may be going.
The New Yorker magazine has a book review of Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”.
The old saying that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it seems to be the basis for this book. Diamond analyzes how cultures fail. That is, looking back at the Vikings in Greenland, Easter Islanders, the Anasazi of the American Southwest, the Mayans, and the modern-day Rwandans, Diamond finds some similarities. Namely: soil, trees, and water.
According to the review, Diamond seems to be saying societies fail when they mismanage these specific environmental factors.
Diamond indicates the Norse settlers in Greenland practised a Northern European brand of dealing with the environment. While this may have worked in Europe (and there is a debate about that), it was, according to the review, a disaster to the ecology of Greenland that eventually led to death by starvation.
Likewise, Easter Island is now completely devoid of trees where forrests once stood. Each of those trees was felled by a human. Without trees, the land died and when the land died, so did the inhabitants (Someting similar may have occured on the Hawaiian island of Ni’ihau. Archeological finds have discoverd what once was a thriving culture. Now, the island is essentially devoid of trees and ground cover leaving a wind swept, barren landscape used only, up until a few years ago, for target bombing by the military).
The review is rather lengthly but if you have the time, it may be helpful in understanding some of the lessons from the past.
Speaking of lessons from the past, the U.K. Guardian Unlimited has an article looing back at empires from Constantine to Bush.
In this time of Christmas, the article goes back to when the Church first celebrated Christmas. How the date of December 25th was chosen and how the Church focuses on Christ’s birth and death but shies away from many of his teachings. Teachings that upset people and if followed, would mean having to change behaviors that people don’t want to change.
Both articles, whether right or wrong, should lead you to thinking about who we are and what roles we play in life because if we don’t, there may not be a role to play.