Archive for Millenarian Revolutions


Posted in Natural Disasters, Uncategorized, War with tags , , , , on March 31, 2010 by jessicabarranco

Societies are  programmed to self-destruct regardless of actual experience, historic accounts, or even coming to an understanding of the environmental issues are at stake in order to address the problem and find a solution to it.  If this history is true, then why not lay down and play dead?

Jared Diamond, addresses the possible reasons for society’s ignorance:

First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives.  Second, when the problem does arrive, the group may fail to perceive it.  Then after they perceive it, they may fail even to try to solve it.  Finally, they may try to solve it but may not succeed … Why, then, do some societies succeed and others fail, int he various ways discussed in this chapter?  Part of the reason, of course, involves differences among environments rather than among societies: some environments pose much more difficult problems than do others. (Diamond, 421 and 438)

As Diamond points out, it is the challenging aspect of the environment that is responsible for society’s demise.  In his chapter, Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?, he lists many examples of disastrous behavior of society given many different environments, under different types of governments.  The most interesting account, involves his fourth point, that societies may try to solve the problem, but a solutions may be beyond its capacity to solve it, due to lack of expenses or efforts.  He describes the cold climate of Greenland, and notes that for 5,000 years, “its limited, unpredictably variable resources have posed an insuperably difficult challenge to human efforts to establish a long-lasting sustainable economy” (p. 436).  If the answer to why societies are unsuccessful, lie in the fact that it does not have the capacity to solve it, this is my response:  If you have 5,000 years of history proving that life in a particular area is unsustainable, then there is absolutely no way that some measly little environmentalist or big bad government is going to magically take the earth by her horns, and force her to yield to this society that wants to live in that particular area.


Millenarian Revolutions on the other hand have a bone to pick with man-made disasters, and the corruption among governments that refuse the survival of the masses.  To counter Jeffrey Ellis’ argument for finding a comprehensive understanding to problems, I would argue that Mike Davis sets up a clear account of over-population.  If arguing through Paul Ehrlich’s perspective, it is only natural for governments to allow victims of natural disaster and catastrophe to fend for themselves.  These people are not going to be the next heroes for the next generation, and will not contribute to maximization of profits for anyone anywhere.  The victims of drought and famine are those that do not have power or worth, except through rebellion and mere survival.  Even as these catastrophes unfold, the governments in place use tactics that nature has demonstrated against those who are already devastated.  “It was impossible to disentangle the victims of drought from the casualties of warfare, or to the clearly distinguish famine from epidemic mortality” (Davis, p. 199).  In this description, it is the fate of the victims to perish under exploited environments.  And so, society dwindles.

Ellis argues that the problems that arise in nature are not consequences of only one problem, nor do they have any one solution.  Regardless of the perspective, he proposes, “Instead of arguing with one another about who is most right, radicals must begin to consider the insights each perspective has generated and work toward a more comprehensive rather than a confrontational understanding of problems that have multiple, complex, and interconnected causes” (Ellis, p. 267).  As he sets up his argument in On the Search for a Root Cause, it would not matter my own personal perspective on the effects of society or environmental collapse, or even the possible solutions to them.  The real matter is that people are placed in strategic settings in order to play a game of Climate Risk.  As Davis points out in The Origins of the Third World, “Climate risk is not given by nature but by ‘negotiated settlement’ since each society has institutional, social, and technical means for coping with risk.  Famines thus are social crises that represent the failures for particular economic and political systems” (Davis, p. 288).

Returning to my orignial argument, if society chooses to play the game, it is up to them to survive.  The given society has the means to survive, if it addresses the environment with keen instinct and a unified collective of understanding.  “There havebeen many such courageous, insightful, strong leaders who deserve our admiration … China’s leaders who mandated family planning long before overpopulation in China could reach Rwandan levels.” (Diamond, p. 440)