| Focus 1/1 | Climate change and ancient civilizations

To a collapse?


In their book ‘The collapse of Western civilization’,[1] published in 2016, Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes predict the end of most of our democratic societies by 2093, i.e. “the day after tomorrow”. One of the main reasons given for this “collapse” is the way our societies function, based on the increasing exploitation of the planet’s resources in order to support a growing population. One of the factors accelerating this global upheaval is climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels on a global scale and the release of greenhouse gases, whose impacts are becoming increasingly evident on the Earth’s surface. By changing the climate, we are changing our environment, weakening the resources on which we depend all the more, and thus calling into question the sustainability of our civilization.

If the term “collapse”, already used by geographer Jared Diamond [2] in his eponymous book in 2005, is doubtless debatable, the link between climate change and the sedentarization of populations in cities now seems quite clear. Climate is certainly not the only factor that has influenced the development or decline of a civilization, but it has certainly contributed to it. The few examples in the main text show how climate variability may have contributed, in part, to the establishment and subsequent growth of civilizations; and also to their decline or to the migration of human populations, which may lead to the emergence of new civilizations.

Notes and references

Cover image. [Source: Collapse of the Universe.jpg|Collapse of the Universe]

[1] Conway M. and Oreskes N. (2016), The Collapse of Western Civilization, ed: Les Liens qui Libèrent, ISBN: 979-10-209-0113-2.

[2] Diamond J. (2005), Collapse : How societies choose to fail or succeed, ed : Viking Press, ISBN 0-14-303655-