Environmental collapse model

[PEREZGONZALEZ Jose D [ed] (2011). Environmental collapse model. Journal of Knowledge Advancement & Integration (ISSN 1177-4576), 2011, pages 15-19.] [Printer friendly]

The environmental collapse model was published by Jared Diamond in 20051. The model deals with a structured set of mostly environmental variables that seem to account for the collapse of some past and present societies. The model, thus, proposes a chain of causation whereas environmental change has led to, is leading to, and may lead to social collapse. This said, the model does not presuppose that all social collapses are a necessary consequence of the proposed variables. As Diamond writes, "It would be absurd to claim that environmental damage must be a major factor in all collapses […]. It's obviously true that military or economic factors alone may suffice" (p.15).
The model is based on five main variables:

  1. Environmental damage, based on the following conditions:
    • Ecological problems, such as:
      • deforestation and habitat destruction
      • soil problems
      • water management problems
      • over-hunting
      • overfishing
      • effects of introduced species
      • human population growth
      • increased per capita impact of people
    • Human-caused climate change
    • Build up of toxic chemicals
    • Energy shortages
    • Full use of Earth's photosynthetic capacity
  2. Climate change
  3. Hostile neighbors
  4. Friendly trade neighbors
  5. Response to environmental problems, based on the following conditions:
      • Failure to anticipate a problem:
        • because of no previous experience with such problem
        • because of having forgotten a previous experience with such problem
        • because of using solutions based on a false analogy with a similar problem
      • Failure to perceive a problem:
        • because the problem itself is imperceptible
        • because organizational managers are distanced from where the problem occurs locally
        • because of slow trends in how the problem progresses
      • Failure to solve the problem:
        • because of rational behavior (economic rationality, selfishness, and the "tragedy of the commons")
        • because of irrational behavior (persistence in error, holding inappropriate values, the "it's someone else's problem" phenomenon, groupthink, and psychological denial)
        • because of failure in solving the problem (beyond present capacities of solution, prohibitively costly to solve, or solutions coming too little too late)


Jose D PEREZGONZALEZ (2011). Massey University, Turitea Campus, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand. (JDPerezgonzalezJDPerezgonzalez).

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