What can one learn from history? What does history tell us? How do we understand history and what is it based on? These questions are common notions when we approach history as a grand narrative. Power and its collapse, war and violence and common man is what history is all made of and about. When it comes to analyze history, we can understand how one reign collapses into the other and revolutions occur. Historical collapse entails transformation and social revolutions that change power structures. Marxist ideology precisely entails this that how conflict in the power structures entails revolution and in more extreme form can result into war. Walter Benjamin writings in 1930 also illustrate how the concept of knowledge and information when occurring in mass culture leads to this.
There are a lot of factors that lead to the historical collapse. Once can count reasons like environmental damage like pollution, changes in trade relations, climactic changes, changes in socio politic caused by oppression, new knowledge, awareness of consciousness and so on. The factors are generally related to these main causes that cause collapse of power relations.
One can cite example of the collapse of Polynesian society on Easter Island. Over there environmental problems were rampant and trade was insignificant. Then there is the medieval collapse of Norse colonies in Greenland.
Maya natives in Yucatan peninsula that collapsed around the 1600 when the Spanish came to conquer the place again was due to the similar causes mentioned above. Societies around the Yucatan peninsula underwent a 360-degree turn in its political realm. The natives who had been living here unknowingly were suddenly uprooted.
Historical change due to environmental change was another important factor. A lot of attention is not paid to this in the realm of history but one can analyze by the example of the Mayan civilization much before when the Spanish conquerors came. Problems such as deforestation led to draughts when there were no rains and no food. Chronic warfare aggravated the problem.
All this kept occurring while the kings were more immersed in the power struggles. As said before, the branch of history recognizes the destruction due to social and political causes than natural disasters or climactic changes per se. Kings concentrated more on fighting and annexing the area than other environmental problems.
Another example is that of Polynesian society that was situated in Pitcairn and Henderson islands in the Pacific Ocean. These islands were actually inhibited by Polynesians and the society left behind a huge legacy of temple platforms, tools and stones. The societies like Polynesians were uprooted by mistakes made by others. Their Mangarevan trading partner collapsed for reasons and then followed by the route of deforestation, erosion and warfare. They were devoid of basic needs and everything collapsed itself till everyone either fled or died.
Other societies that have declined and collapsed due to factors similar to these could be the Anasazi of the southwest America who themselves abandoned their city during 12th century because of environmental problems. Greenland Norse also disappeared in the 15th century following the same reasons. Other examples include Fertile Crescent societies, Moche society of Peru and so on.
However, some powerful civilizations have survived the harsh conditions too and were successful in eliminating the environmental threats of death or decay. Among these are the societies in Tonga, Tikopia, new Geniua highlands and so on. But then these examples raise the questions that if they could succeed so could the other! So why did the Maya fail? The answer boils down to one simple fact that the condition in each society is different. Some are able to survive some are not. Climatic conditions and resource availability is different at different places and so is the development of each civilization.
One good example in this case could be Japan that in 1600s faced a threat of deforestation caused by the civil war that lasted about 150 years. Yet the country was able to survive and recover because of the measures they took to solve the problem. They reduced the consumption of wood, started using fuel-efficient stoves and heaters and coal as a source of energy. This enabled them withstand the harsh conditions thus we see how and where the development in Japan makes it stand today.
Another example is Iceland. Norse was settled around ad 870. A lot of deforestation had occurred and led to soil erosion. But gradually when things started worsening, they did learn from their mistakes and tried to take effective measures.
As a matter of fact, deforestation, climactic change and pollution of the natural environment is a much bigger problem today and almost the entire world is facing it today. One can learn from this history that respecting the natural environment is apparently the most essential to support the human civilization otherwise we would one day face the same fate. Even though we are at the peak of scientific and technological development, the natural resources shall not last forever and there must be a limit to which technology can support us. The environmental problems must be taken seriously and effectively dealt with. Globalization and technology does not mean losing the natural ways of living life. With more technology one can devise effective decisions and processes by which the nature could be preserved instead be destroyed. The role of new developments should take us in a positive direction. Successful societies are only formed only when they keep the political, social and economic in balance with the