Review: Catastrophe–An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization

5 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe

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Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Bigger Picture Thinking–Good Foundation for Policy,

November 12, 2001
David Keys
The ending is meant to be a surprise, so care must be taken, but this book is really extremely worthwhile to anyone who wants to have their thinking stretched.It starts with an examination of the Dark Ages (literally) and how the loss of sunlight and all the related catastrophes, from drought and famine followed by flooding and plagues and epidemics, impacted on each continent in turn–including the Islam and Turkish and Jewish dimensions.

This is humbling book, for its grasp of time and the movement of history–in stretches of hundreds of thousands of years–does tend to call into question any human anxiety over current events.

Yet, at the same time, and in keeping with other books reviewed in this series pertaining to the decline of the state (nation) and the environmental situation, the author takes great care to make this sweeping work relevant to today’s concerns.

Without revealing the details, I will just say that the way in which this books links cause and effect and new cause and new effect, across many continents,over decades and then centuries and then tens of centuries, provides an excellent foundation for putting everything else in perspective.

Two aspects stand out: the degree to which natural causes of catastrophe lurk within the Earth and are predictable yet taken with enormous complacence because they seem so remote until they actually occur; and the degree to which an established well-organized state (nation) can dramatically reduce the effects of drought, famine, or other disasters if it has planned ahead.

When a recurring catastrophe is known to occur every 600,000 to 700,000 years, and the last occurence was well into the middle of this period, one can ignore it, or ponder our readiness for an imminent recurrence.

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