I recently watched a speech given by Jared Diamond, author of the books Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, among others. It was very interesting and prompted me to write this post (which I first posted over at Guerrillamerica.com.)
I'm watching Jared Diamond speak about why societies collapse. As you may know, Diamond wrote the book Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, among others (and they're all great). Here are five factors that Jared says affect the collapse of societies. I'll take notes and relate these effects to the American Redoubt region. Think of these as thinking points as opposed to talking points.
Human Impacts on the Environment
There are massive human impacts on the environment in parts of the American Redoubt, although much of the Redoubt states are a majority of Federally-owned lands. Because Redoubt states are so richly endowed with natural resources (hydrocarbons, metals, minerals, and lumber); there's going to be an equal amount of focus on getting those substances out of the ground. That can create pollution and a degradation of the environment, which Jared says causes societies to collapse. There will have to be a happy-medium solution to resource extraction and protection of the environment because we're economically dependent on these resources in order to function. Will the American Redoubt be held hostage by international oil cartels (along with the rest of America) or will we make strides to become energy independent? My bet is on the latter.
Diamond cites a few different examples of how the environment ultimately did-in societies; from the collapse of the Mayan civilization to the Norse in Greenland. For the Norse, overgrazing and deforestation contributed to the entire Norse population in Greenland dying off.
There are environmental factors that are "too subtle" to realize until it's too late; as in the case of the Norse. One of the subtle factors we might include is the population growth over the next decade. If we do see a financial collapse, followed by a domino effect of other collapses, we'll likely see an influx of patriots to the American Redoubt. The slower the process of collapse - if Americans do have time to get out of Dodge in an orderly fashion - the faster we'll see immigration into the Redoubt.
We should consider how we'll harvest and extract natural resources in order to support the populace and the defense of the region. In any number of scenarios, the American Redoubt states would likely have to provide for their own defense; export resources for cash; and manage an influx of immigrants. That can induce stress on resource production, especially if demand outpaces available supply. Could our treatment of the environment to make life better in the short term actually end up harming us in the long term?
I'm by no means an "environmentalist" but we have a long term interest in being good stewards of the environment. That's not just for the environment but also for us. When our society literally depends on the environment by which we're surrounded, we have a vested interest in strategically consuming or harvesting those resources.
[JWR Adds: Thankfully the population density in the American Redoubt is quite low. The population crash examples that Jared Diamond cited were nearly all in areas where the population density grew too high vis-a-vis the natural resources. If there were a rapid in-migration, it would still take a century or more for the Redoubt to overpopulate to the point where it outstrips its resources. For example, the county where I live has less than five people per square mile. Even if the population were to expand by a factor of 10, there would still be plenty of elbow room here. And there is enough timber here to support 20 times the population.]
I don't believe in anthropomorphic (man-made) climate change but I can easily see how the climates of geographical regions have and can change over time. We've had ice ages and we've had warming periods; that's just the history of the globe as a whole. If we are indeed experiencing climate change in the Redoubt states, then our survivability in this region could be at stake.
Let's just assume that climate change is indeed occurring in Redoubt states (purely hypothetical). Because most of the Redoubt region consists of semi-arid valleys and high deserts, how would warming affect precipitation, the environmental ability to accumulate and retain moisture over the winter (snowfall and snow pack), and run-off which constitutes a large portion of irrigation that makes farming these regions possible?
How would climate change increase the stress on our water tables and aquifers and on crops within the climate threshold?
Relations with Friendly Societies
We have to define "Friendly Societies" as the states (or societies) immediately surrounding the Redoubt; and also include most states in the Union as well as the regions of Canada to the north (British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan). (States, regions, or societies we don't include here will fall under Hostile Societies.)
Because the Redoubt is landlocked, we'll be heavily dependent upon neighboring friendly societies for products and resources not indigenous to the region. If we want a fresh tomato in January, we'd better figure out how trade is going to work under conditions where resources are scare (if we can even figure it out). I believe the Redoubt can be energy independent and so our ability to export much needed resources will be an incentive for those friendly societies to remain friendly.
But at what point could we see conflict, coercion, and punishment from hostile societies?
Relations with Hostile Societies
The American Redoubt, with its vast resources and above average infrastructure, will still be under threat of systems disruption (def: the slowing or stopping of critical networks) to include interruptions of petrol, finance, energy, and economic networks (along with the rest of America). The same nefarious actors that threaten America as a whole will pose a threat to the Redoubt as well. We'll likely be limited in our ability (as Redoubters) to effect change on international adversaries and non-state entities and be wholly dependent on the response of America at large.
For the purpose of the American Redoubt, I'll include regional self-government as being under threat of hostile societies. Domestic hostile societies include large pockets of the Federal and military establishment; societies within the American Redoubt itself who won't want to live in a "free state"; and potentially large swaths of the population on both coasts. In a true collapse scenario, there will likely be more immediate problems than the independent mountain states; but to overlook any segment of the American population would be foolish.
Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural Factors of Society
The political foundations in the American Redoubt states are what I'd call "pretty solid." Liberty is still heralded as a major political issue although it becomes somewhat diminished in certain parts of each state. The American Redoubt, by the numbers, has a strong economy; the region as a whole is in the top 25% of the nation when it comes to unemployment and at about the national average in other categories such as median household income. Societal and cultural factors include a tolerance for logging, mining, and drilling (willing to accept risk for the reward); and very supportive of both hunting and gun laws. Independence outweighs dependency and most believe that when the government gives to one what is not earned, another must work for without receiving. Over-regulation and government interference are shunned in most places, which makes the American Redoubt states pretty great places to live.
Redoubters, I believe, when push comes to shove are responsive to intrusive government and laws of soft tyranny; although a few do manage to pass from time to time. Compared to the rest of the nation, liberties in the Redoubt are either being upheld or eroding at a much slower rate.
Jared Diamond explains that a number of societies haven't experienced a slow, steady decrease; but instead rise to prominence only to fall very rapidly - years at minimum; decades at max - and collapse. He likens that to a growth of bacteria in a petri dish, where the bacteria grows, the availability of food diminishes and disappears, and the bacterial growth collapses on relatively short order.
Those societies that collapsed failed to perceive their problems, failed to solve their problems, or both; some for lack of realization, some for lack of effort, or others for lack of ability.
"One blueprint for trouble, making collapse likely" is the rift between the "short term interests of the decision making elites and the long term interests of the society as a whole; especially if the elites are able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions." We see this today in America. Our decision makers - Congress, who passes laws regarding healthcare and social security that don't pertain to them - are adept at insulating themselves from the consequences of their actions and this makes me very concerned with the nation's survivability over the long term.
Finally, Jared Diamond says that societies must solve all their problems; that it does no good for a society to solve eleven threats but not solve the twelfth. Regarding issues threatening collapse, we have to get it right 100% of the time.
These are five factors that every Redoubter should consider and we need to work on solving these problems before they threaten our society. - Partisan