It seems that a growing number of people believe that the biblical End Time, or the end of the world as we know it, is drawing very near. Most of these people are religious fundamentalists and politically conservative. They like to point to the abandonment of “traditional” values as proof that our society is on the road to ruin. They feel especially threatened by the legalization of gay marriage.
But it was recently announced that new research will soon be published in the Journal of Ecological Economics that identifies the primary reasons for the collapse of great civilizations throughout human history. The scientists found that the two factors which contribute the most to a society’s decline are the over exploitation of natural resources and an uneven distribution of wealth.
In regards to the over exploitation of natural resources, there is no better modern day example than the climate changes that are being caused by our continued widespread use of fossil fuels for energy production. Another example is that scientists estimate modern humans have accelerated the rate of species extinction from 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural rate.
As for an uneven distribution of wealth, U.S. government data shows the incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275% from 1979 and 2007. Furthermore, the average pre-tax income for the bottom 90% of households decreased by $900 since 1979, while it increased by over $700,000 for the top 1%. A 2012 study published in the American Sociological Review showed that the total share of the nation’s income received by the top 1% of Americans grew from 10% percent in 1981 to 23.5% 2007, an increase of 135%.
These are all issues that conservatives reject. Many of them don’t even believe in human-caused climate change, let alone support any attempts to reduce our use of fossil fuels. Instead, they mindlessly repeat Orwellian conservative think tank slogans like “The War on Coal” and call for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to promote the dirty Canadian tar sands oil industry. They also want to dismantle the Endangered Species Act. And they declare President Obama’s modest attempts to address the destruction of the middle class to be communistic wealth redistribution schemes. But the most dangerous thing might be their support of private school vouchers in the name of school choice. The public funds diverted to these types of vouchers reduce the amount of money available for public schools and will foster separate and unequal social classes within our educational system.
It’s ironic that many of the people who are convinced that our civilization is collapsing are also contributing to the things that have proven to be the most likely to cause it to happen. I think it shows that the researchers were wrong about why civilizations decline – the primary cause is ignorance.
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