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#288049 - 01/27/18 12:38 AM All of us live off the land: unsustainable?
Bingley Offline

Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1384
I came across this article with the following conclusion:

Complex societies have collapsed many times before. It has not always been a bad thing. As James C Scott points out in his fascinating book, Against the Grain, when centralised power began to collapse, through epidemics, crop failure, floods, soil erosion or the self-destructive perversities of government, its corralled subjects would take the chance to flee. In many cases they joined the “barbarians”. This so-called secondary primitivism, Scott notes, “may well have been experienced as a marked improvement in safety, nutrition and social order. Becoming a barbarian was often a bid to improve one’s lot.” The dark ages that inexorably followed the glory and grandeur of the state may, in that era, have been the best times to be alive.

But today there is nowhere to turn. The wild lands and rich ecosystems that once supported hunter gatherers, nomads and the refugees from imploding early states who joined them now scarcely exist. Only a tiny fraction of the current population could survive a return to the barbarian life. (Consider that, according to one estimate, the maximum population of Britain during the Mesolithic, when people survived by hunting and gathering, was 5000).In the nominally democratic era, the complex state is now, for all its flaws, all that stands between us and disaster.

From "Is this the end of civilisation? W...an, 24 Jan 2018. Note that much of the article offers political analysis -- not really the subject of discussion on this forum. However, I do think the claim that the world today cannot sustain all of us trying to live off the land is worth considering. This would especially be important for people who do long-term preps to live off the grid or be completely self-sufficient. If a large-scale disaster forces many people in a big region (say, an entire country or continent) to do that for years on end, will that mean many deaths just because the ecosystem cannot sustain so many people?

I always wonder about people who look to hunting as a means of survival when they live in or around major cities. If millions of people have the same plan, the woods will turn into a desert within hours.

#288052 - 01/27/18 03:13 AM Re: All of us live off the land: unsustainable? [Re: Bingley]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6709
Loc: southern Cal
The politics in the article are rather trivial in a long term perspective and out of bounds for this forum (Thank goodness!).

Archaeologists build long careers studying collapse of civilizations, attempting to explain them and provide knowledge useful in the present.

Look at a collapse, the Mayan civilization, for instance, and you often find that the ruling elites recede, temples fall into ruin, etc. but the common folk persevere. Often climatic change seems to be a significant factor, which should give us concern today. After 1492, introduced diseases created havoc in the Americas, but the world is probably too global today.
Geezer in Chief

#288053 - 01/27/18 03:30 AM Re: All of us live off the land: unsustainable? [Re: Bingley]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1360
But I think that the essential point is - all the good land for growing food is taken. So it is not possible for millions of people from the cities to simply occupy "what's left". It's conceivable that people could invade BLM land and Natl Parks.

But if things ever became long-term desperate then the conclusion is that there would be serious fighting over the productive farmland in America. It would be ugly. Farmers vs. a lot of armed squatters.

Edited by Pete (01/27/18 03:30 AM)

#288054 - 01/27/18 05:34 AM Re: All of us live off the land: unsustainable? [Re: Bingley]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2734
Loc: Alberta, Canada
From my perspective, this is a breathless narrative that condenses 10 years of "The Onion" into a few paragraphs. I stand in awe!

#288057 - 01/27/18 10:10 AM Re: All of us live off the land: unsustainable? [Re: Bingley]
Phaedrus Offline

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2193
Loc: Great Plains
Yeah, if there was truly a comprehensive societal collapse there's no way the lower 48 could support the 300+ million folks already here. It takes advanced agricultural tech to produce that much food. If things really go to heck in a handbasket we can safely assume no fuel to run combines or to plant, no way to get the harvest to market if there was a harvest, etc.
“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

#288070 - 01/28/18 04:38 PM Re: All of us live off the land: unsustainable? [Re: Bingley]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1360
The practical conclusion to this - for people who are homesteading - is to try to buy a piece of productive land that is "out of the way". i.e. protected by natural barriers, and isolated from major cities. If the land is Not easily approachable by squatters, and not on a main road connected with a large city, then your worries about land invasion are much reduced.

The problem already exists in other countries. For example, in Brazil there are permanent squatters. They live in very poor makeshift camps located beside the roads. This does not occur in all the states of Brazil, but I have seen it in some of them. In that country there is usually a small strip of land that borders the roadway, but it outside the fenceline of the farms. Squatters sometimes live permanently on these small strips of land. The farmers do not like it - and they drive off the encroaching squatters. That's because the arrival of a camp of squatters often means that they will scale the fences and rob food from the fruit trees and the fields.

This is really a global demographics problem. Large farms are owned by large companies, and those companies are controlled by billionaires. But the distribution of the world's wealth is becoming enormously skewed, which throws a much larger number of people into poverty.

Edited by Pete (01/28/18 04:40 PM)

#288081 - 02/02/18 06:30 PM Re: All of us live off the land: unsustainable? [Re: Phaedrus]
MoBOB Offline

Registered: 09/17/07
Posts: 1219
Loc: here
I believe the real heart of the matter is excellently stated in your second sentence. Personal or communal agriculture can in no way match the production of a corporate giant on the same parcel.
It would be a tough haul all the way 'round if catastrophism was to significantly alter the state of things.
"Its not a matter of being ready as it is being prepared" -- B. E. J. Taylor


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