söndag 3 juli 2016

Books I've read (mid-Aug - Sept)

I am still trying to catch up, but, the blog has once been buzzing with more important things (academic papers!) than what books I have read "lately" - in this case between mid-August and September last year (i.e. ten months ago). All three books below are about, well, culture, sustainability and the past/future of humanity. Here's the previous blog post about books I have read. The asterisks represent the number of quotes from the each book and you find the quotes further below.

********************* I've read several books by Jared Diamond before but none during the last five years (or I would have had written about it on this blog). Diamond's "The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?" (2012) is his latest book but I do think he is mostly known for his 1997 book "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies". Diamond is a master of drawing up the grand lines and of popularising science, but this is not something that can be done without making a lot of (academic) enemies. As far as I can see, the critique is divided into two main lines. The first is that by popularising, he is also simplifying matters high and low to such an extent that he (runs the risk) of distorting reality/the truth. The second line of critique, most vividly expressed in the title of the 2013 academic article "F** k Jared Diamond" (published in the journal "Capitalism, Nature, Socialism") accuses Diamond of being (on the very first page, mind you) deterministic, "random", racist, silly, reductionistic, bourgeois, imperialistic, a pseudo intellectual, a "clever hack", deceitful (by pretending to be thoughtful and caring) and someone whose writing can be compared to a "crime spree". Phew. The author, David Correia, is a featherweight academic besides Jared Diamond, whose homepage says that he has published more than six hundred articles (how is that even possible?) and who was ranked to be the #9 public intellectual in a poll by Prospect and Foreign Policy in 2005.

We can draw the conclusion that Diamond is controversial to some but appreciated by others. Well, I thought the book was good read if not as good as his previous books. But it was as always interesting and sometimes thought-provoking (see the quotes further below). His main point is very interesting. There is much diversity in terms of social phenomena, but with the exception of the very few indigenous people who have no contact with modern civilisation, everybody else is, despite remaining variations, very much alike. Comparing someone from Benin with someone from Belgium will yield small differences compared to comparisons between the Daribi from New Guinea, the Nganasan in Siberia or the Machguenga who live in the Amazon. What can we learn about humans and human societies from the sheer variety of the 39 different indigenous societies on five contintents in terms of conflicts, war, religion and so on? From the back cover: 

"Over the past 500 years, the West achieved global dominance, but do Westerners necessarily have better ideas about how to raise children, care for the elderly, or simply live well? In a sweeping journey around the globe, Jared Diamond explores how tribal people approach essential human problems, from health and diet to conflict resolution and language, and discoveries that they have much to teach us. These traditional societies offer an extraordinary window into how our ancestors lived for most of human history - until virtually yesterday, in evolutionary terms."

****** Tore Frängsmyr's 1980 book "Framsteg eller förfall: Framtidsbilder och utopier i västerländsk tradition" [Progress or decay: visions and utopias in the Western intellectual tradition] is an outcome of a research project he participated in in the late 1970's, "Futures studies and their function in society". I have owned the book for a long time and even started to read it 10 years ago but got stuck or was distracted. I have since worked some with futures studies researchers and that made this book more interesting for me to read now than it was back then. The book is very much a history book about the different ways in which people throughout the ages have thought about the future (and about nature). From the back cover (translated):

"Futurology is today a highly topical subject. Through detailed study seeks to provide forecasts and determine trends in terms about population growth, food, resources and natural environments. Future Studies is however not something new. Already in the 1600s, many people believed that the earth's resources gradually decreased and that we one day would run out of them. 

In this book Tore Frängsmyr provides the history of ideas behind futures studies. He shows how different visions and utopias emerged from political, economic, religious and scientific beliefs, and what functions they had in the society of that time. As a guiding principle, he examines man's relationship to nature.
The author distinguishes between utopia and belief in progress as two opposing views, but in the final chapter he shows that the concrete future visions of society still are quite unimaginative. In chosing between the Effective society and the Good life, most have opted for the first."

*********************************************** "Sustainability or Collapse? An Integrated History and Future of People on Earth" (2007) is a 500 pages long book that is edited by Robert Costanza (Wikipedia), Lisa Graumlich and Will Steffen (Wikipedia). The origin of the book is to be found at a workshop that was held in Berlin in 2005, "the 96th Dahlem Workshop (pdf) on Integrated History and future Of People on Earth (IHOPE)"). The book is in fact the report from the workshop. 

It is hard to go into details about such a massive 22-chapter book, but the four parts of the books (beyond the three chapters that form the introduction) are:
- The Millennial Timescale: Up to 10,000 Years Ago
- The Centennial Timescale: Up to 1000 Years Ago
- The Decadal Timescale: Up to 100 Years Ago
- The Future

There were many interesting chapters in the book (and some that were less so) that pointed in many different directions. Some of my personal highlights were: "Climate, Complexity, and Problem Solving in the Roman Empire" by Joseph Tainter and Carole Crumley, "Information Processing and Its Role in the Rise of the European World System" by Sander van der Leeuw, "Social, Economic, and Political Forces in Environmental Change: Decadal Scale (1900 to 2000)" by John McNeill and "Evaluating Past Forecasts: Reflections on One Critique of The Limits to Growth" by Dennis Meadows. From the back cover:

"Human history, as written traditionally, leaves out the important ecological and climate context of historical events. But the capability to integrate the history of human beings with the natural history of Earth now exists, and we are finding that human-environmental systems are intimately linked in ways we are only beginning to appreciate. In Sustainability or Collapse?, researchers from a range of scholarly disciplines develop an integrated human and environmental history over millennial, centennial, and decadal time scales and make projections for the future. The contributors focus on the human-environment interactions that have shaped historical forces since ancient times and discuss such key methodological issues as data quality. Topics highlighted include the political ecology of the Mayans; the effect of climate on the Roman empire; the "revolutionary weather" of El Niño from 1788 to 1795; twentieth-century social, economic, and political forces in environmental change; scenarios for the future; and the accuracy of such past forecasts as The Limits to Growth."


----- On us, begin WEIRD  -----
"psychologists base most of their generalizations about human nature on studies of our own narrow and atypical slice of human diversity. Among the human subjects studied in a sample of papers from the top psychology journals surveyed in the year 2008, 96% were from Westernized industrial countries (North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel), 68% were from the U.S. in particular, and up to 80% were college undergraduates enrolled in psychology courses, i.e., not even typical of their own national societies. That is ... most of our understanding of human psychology is based on subjects who may be described by the acronym WEIRD: from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies. ... if we wish to generalize about human nature, we need to broaden greatly our study sample from the usual WEIRD subects (mainly American psychology undergraduates) to the whole range of traditional societies."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.8.

----- There are only three sorts of people; friends, enemies and strangers  -----
"members of small-scale societies ... divide people into three categories: friends, enemies, and strangers. "Friends" are the members of your own band or village, and of those neighboring bands and villages with which your band happens to be on peaceful terms at the moment. "Enemies" are members of neighboring bands and villages with which your band happens to be on hostile terms at the moment. ... The remaining category is "strangers": unknown individuals belonging to distant bands with which your band has little or no contact. Rarely or never do members of small-scale societies encounter strangers, because it's suicidal to travel into an unfamiliar area to whose inhabitants you are unknown and completely unrelated. If you do happen to encounter a stranger in your territory, you have to presume that the person in dangerous"
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.49-50.

----- On how big the world is (perceived to be)  -----
"Geographic knowledge was very local in Highland New Guinea, with its dense populations and relatively stable environment. Travel and knowledge were wider in areas with stable environments but lower populations ... and were still wider in areas with variable environments and low populations (such as deserts and inland Arctic areas). For example, Andaman Islanders knew nothing about Andaman tribes living more than 20 miles distant. The known world of the Dugum Dani was largely confined to the Baliem Valley, most of which they could see from hilltops, but they could visit only a fraction of the valley because it was divided up by war frontiers that it was suicidal to cross."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.55.

----- On encountering pre-modern tribes  -----
"The last large-scale first contacts in world history will prove to be those that took place in the New Guinea Highlands, where from the 1930s to the 1950s patrols by Australian and Dutch government and army reconnaissance expeditions, miners on prospecting trips, and biological expeditions "discovered" a million Highlanders of whose existence the outside world hadn't known and vice versa - even though Europeans had by then been visiting and settling the coasts of New Guinea for 400 years."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.57.

----- On dispute resolution vs a justice system  -----
"the main aim of traditional New Guinea compensation is to restore the previous relationship, even if it was merely a "non-relationship" that consisted only of giving each other no trouble despite the potential for doing so. But that aim ... represent a huge difference from Western state systems of dispute resolution, in which restoring a relationship is usually irrelevant because there wasn't any relationship before and there won't be any again in the future."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.88.

----- On modern vs pre-modern warfare  -----
"As for the numerous differences between traditional and state warfare, one difference follows straight on from that discussion of the psychology of killing. Even when modern soldiers see an enemy face-to-face, the enemy is almost always a nameless person, someone whom they never met before and against whom they hold no individual grudge. In contrast, in small-scale traditional societies one recognizes and knows by name not only every member of one's own society, but also many or most of the enemy warriors one is trying to kill - because shifting alliances and occasional intermarriages make one's neighbors familiar as individuals."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.143.

----- On prisoners of war as a modern invention  -----
"State armies spare and take prisoners because they are able to feed them, guard them, put them to work, and prevent them from running away. Traditional "armies" do not take enemy warriors as prisoners, because they cannot do any of those things to make use of prisoners. Surrounded or defeated traditional warriors do not surrender, because they know that they would be killed anyway."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.146.

----- On Leviathan blessings  -----
"Despite the excitement and the prestige of tribal fighting, tribespeople understand better than anyone else the misery associated with warfare, the omnipresent danger, and the pain due to the killings of loved ones. When tribal warfare is finally ended by forceful intervention by colonial governments, tribespeople regularly comment on the resulting improved quality of life that they hadn't been able to create for themselves, because without centralized government they hadn't been able to interrupt the cycles of revenge killings. [That] explains the surprising ease with which small numbers of Australian patrol officers and native policemen were able to end tribal warfare in the then-territory of Papua New Guinea. They arrived at a warring village, bought a pig, shot the pig to demonstrate the power of firearms ... and occasionally shot New Guineans who dared to attack them. Of course, New Guineans are pragmatic and could recognize the power of guns. But one might not have predicted how easily they would give up warfare that they had been practicing for thousands of years"
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.148-149.

----- On European colonial influences and the not-so-noble "savage"  -----
"From about 1818 to 1835 two products introduced by Europeans triggered a transient surge in the deadliness of Maori warfare, in an episode know in New Zealand history as the Musket Wars. One factor was of course the introduction of muskets, with which Maori could kill each other far more efficiently than they had previously been able to do when armed with clubs. The other factor may initially surprise you: potatoes, which we don't normally imagine as a major promoter of war. But it turns out that the duration and size of Maori expeditions to attack other Maori groups had been limited by the amount of food that could be brought along to feed the warriors. The original Maori staple food was sweet potatoes. Potatoes introduced by Europeans (although originating in South America) are more productive in New Zealand than are sweet potatoes, yield bigger food surpluses, and permitted sending out bigger raiding expeditions for longer times than had been possible for traditional Maori depending upon sweet potatoes. After potatoes' arrival, Maori canoe-borne expeditions to enslave or kill other Maori broke all previous Maori distance records by covering distances of as much as a thousand miles. ... As muskets spread, the Musket Wars rose to a peak until all surviving tribes had muskets ... and the Musket Wars faded away."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.150-151.

----- On our readiness to kill  -----
"ethnographic studies of traditional human societies lying largely outside the control of state government have shown that war, murder, and demonization of neighbors have been the norm, not the exception, and that members of those societies espousing those norms are often normal, happy, well-adjusted people, not ogres. ... traditional New Guineans from their earliest childhood onwards saw warriors going out and coming back from fighting, saw the dead bodies and the wounds of their relatives and clansmen killed by the enemy, heard stories of killing, heard fighting talked about as the highest ideal, and witnessed successful warriors talking proudly about their killings and being praised for it."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.168-169.

----- On the lack of studies of children in pre-modern societies  -----
"Why should we be interested in child-rearing practices of traditional hunter-gatherer, farmer, and herder societies? ... Despite ... good reasons for us to be interested in child-rearing in non-Western societies, it has received much less study than it deserves. Part of the problem is that many of the scholars who go out to study other cultures are young, don't have children of their own, aren't experiences in talking with or observing children, and mainly describe and interview adults. Anthropology, education, psychology, and other academic fields have their own ideologies, which at any given time focus on a certain range of research topics, and which impose blinders on what phenomena are considered worth studying."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.174.

----- On teenage parenthood  -----
"In such multi-age playgroups, both the older and the younger children gain from being together. The young children gain from being socialized not only by adults [but] also by older children, while the older children acquire experience in caring for younger children. That experience gained by older children contributes to explaining how hunter-gatherers can become confident parents already as teen-agers. While Western societies have plenty of teen-aged parents, especially unwed teen-agers, Western teen-agers are suboptimal parents because of inexperience. However, in a small-scale society, the teen-agers who become parents will already have been taking care of children for many years"
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.201.

----- On competition and educational toys  -----
"A regular feature of the games of hunter-gatherer societies and the smallest farming societies is their lack of competition or contests. Whereas many American games involve keeping score and are about winning and losing, it is rare for hunter-gatherer games to keep score or identify a winner. Instead, games of small-scale societies often involve sharing, to prepare children for adult life that emphasizes sharing and discourages contests. ... American toy manufacturers heavily promote so-called educational toys to foster so-called creative play. American parents are taught to believer that manufactures store-bought toys are important to the development of their children. In contrast, traditional societies have few or no toys, and any toys that do exist are made either by the child itself or by the child's parents."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.204.

----- On different "endgames" for men and women  -----
"Another consequence of the population pyramid's inversion is that, insofar as older people continue to be valuable to society (e.g., due to their long and varied experience), any individual old person is less valuable because so many other old individuals offer that same value. ... Aging plays out differently for men and for women. ... For instance, in the U.S. 80% of older men are married and only 12% are widowers, while less than 40% of older women are married and over half are widows. That's partly because of longer female life expectancy, but also because men tend to be older than their wives at the time of marriage, and because widowed men are more likely to remarry (to considerably younger new wives) than are widowed women."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.232-233.

----- What to do with older people in modern society?  -----
"My abilities to build a vacuum-tube radio and to drive a manual-shift car have also become obsolete. Much else that I and my contemporaries learned in our youth has become equally useless, and much that we never learned has become indispensable. ... On the one hand, people live longer, old people enjoy better physical health, and the rest of society can better afford to care for them than at any previous time in human history. On the other hand, old people have lost most of the traditional usefulness that they offered to society, and they often end up socially more miserable while physically healthier."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.236.

----- On our taken-for-granted healthcare  -----
"the effects of many or most accidents that we Americans suffer can be repaired, whereas accidents in New Guinea are much more likely to prove crippling or fatal. On the sole occasion when I became incapacitated and unable to walk in the United States (from slipping on an icy Boston side-walk and breaking my foot), I hobbled to a nearby pay phone to call my physician father, who picked me up and took me to a hospital. But when I injured my knee in the interior of Papua New Guinea's Bougainville Island and became unable to walk, I found myself stranded 20 miles inland from the coast, without any means to obtain outside help. New Guineans who break a bone can't get it set by a surgeon and are likely to end up with an improperly set bone that leaves them permanently impaired."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.245.

----- On estimating and counteracting dangers  -----
"the annual number of people killed or injured by a certain type of danger may be low precisely because we are so aware of it and go to such great efforts to minimize our risk. If we were fully rational, perhaps a better measure of danger than the actual annual number of deaths inflicted (easy to count up) would be the annual numbers of deaths that would have been inflicted if we hadn't taken counter-measures (hard to estimate). Two examples stand out ... Few people in traditional societies normally die of famine, precisely because so many of a society's practices are organized so as to reduce the risk of dying of famine. Few !Kung are killed each year by lions, not because lions aren't dangerous, but instead because they are indeed so dangerous that the !Kung take elaborate measures to protect themselves against lions"
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.245.

----- On accidental deaths  -----
"When we imagine the dangers facing traditional societies, our first association is likely to be with lions and other environmental hazards. In reality, for most traditional societies environmental dangers rank only third as a cause of death, behind disease and human violence. But environmental dangers exert a bigger effect on people's behavior than do diseases, because for environmental dangers the relation between cause and effect is much quicker and more easily perceived and understood. ... the main causes of accidental death in modern Westernized societies: in descending sequence of death toll, we are killed by cars, alcohol, guns, surgery, and motorcycles"
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.278-279.

----- On food insecurity  -----
"Starvation is a risk that affluent First World citizens don't even think about, because our access to food remains the same, day after day, from season to season, and year after year. ... For small-scale societies, however, there are unpredictably good or bad days, some season each year when food is predictably short and to which people look forward with foreboding, and unpredictably good or bad years. As a result, food is a major and almost constant subject of conversation. ... The significance of sex and food is reversed between the Siriono [indians of Bolivia] and us Westerners: the Sirionos' strongest anxieties are about food, they have sex virtually whenever they want, and sex compensates for food hunger, while our strongest anxieties are about sex, we have food virtually whenever we want, and eating compensates for sexual frustration."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.299-300.

----- On the functions and use of religion  -----
"What about religion's future? That depends on what shape the world will be in 30 years from now. If living standards rise all around the world, then [some of] religion's functions ... will continue to decline, but [other functions] seem to me likely to persist. Religion is especially likely to continue to be espoused for claiming to offer meaning to individual lives and deaths whose meaning may seem insignificant from a scientific perspective. ... If, on the other hand, much of the world remains mired in poverty, or if (worse yet) the world's economy and living standards and peace deteriorate, then all functions of religion, perhaps even supernatural explanation, may undergo a resurgence.
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.368.

----- On food and population density  -----
"The main reason for the small [size of the] communities of hunter-gatherrs is low food availability, hence low human population densities. Within the same environment, population densities of hunter-gatherers are 10 to 100 times lower than those of farmers, because much less food is available to hunter-gatherers, able to eat only that tiny fraction of wild plant species that is edible, than to farmers, who convert the landscape into gardens and orchards of edible plants."
Diamond, J. (2012). The world until yesterday, p.379.

----- On future studies and speculations  -----
"Future studies and speculations have of course in a trivial sense occurred [for a long time]. Religious divinations have manifested themselves in eschatological and apocalyptic literature, in everyday life, humans have relied on Farmers Almanacs and other practical precepts. The politician's task has been to predict the future in the longer or shorter term, the poet's to in a personal way shape his thoughts about it. Prophecies of doom have been mixed with utopian visions of the future. The great ideological thinkers have drawn up blueprints for the future society. And science fiction authors have played with technological dreams, which in many cases have occured with astonishing certainty. "
Frängsmyr, T. (1980). Progress or decay, p.9-10.

----- On More's Utopia and the downfall of the 1%  -----
"When I see our modern social system, I can not [Thomas] More continues [in his novel Utopia from 1516,] with Raphael's voice, see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to protect their own interests under the pretext of "organising" society. They devise all sorts of tricks to protect what is theirs while simultaneously taking advantage of the poor by buying their labor as cheaply as possible. And they get their actions "approved" by society by themselves introducing suitable laws. A ruthless minority can thus, through their greed, usurp all that which would have sufficed for an entire nation."
Frängsmyr, T. (1980). Progress or decay, p.52.

----- On one of the most popular literary utopias ever  -----
"One of the most successful among modern utopias is undoubtedly Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward 2000-1887, published in 1888. It has been published in the tens of million of copies in twenty-ish languages around the world. It has become especially appreciated in the author's native United States, where only since 1960 eleven editions have been printed for a total of more than a million copies. Another measure of the book's popularity is that between 1889 and 1900 no fewer than 46 novels appeared in the United States with similar titles, like "Looking Forward", "Looking Beyond" "Looking Ahead," "Looking Further Backward", "Looking Within" and "Looking Backward and What I Saw"."
Frängsmyr, T. (1980). Progress or decay, p.141

----- On Bellamy as the Bernie Sanders of the 1880's?  -----
"[The main character of Bellamy's novel from 1888] Julian West's old society is compared to a wagon being pulled by the crowds on a hilly and sandy road. Although the work is heavy and the road cumbersome, the roof is full of people sitting there, and they don't even get off in the uphills. It is cool and pleasant on the roof, those sitting there can enjoy the scenery, or critically discuss the team pulling the cart forward. ... Don't the travellers have any compassion for those who work? Yes, they often express their "pity" for them, especially when they arrive at a bad stretch of road or a steep uphill. The workers' desperate efforts, whereby some are trampled in the mud, make the passengers anxious and causes "very respectable expression of emotion on the wagon roof".  The passengers usually shout words of encouragement to those who toil by the ropes, urging them to be patient and giving them the hope of compensation in another world; others let purchase ointments and liniments for the injured."
Frängsmyr, T. (1980). Progress or decay, p.147.

----- On utopian thinkers as the ultimate realists?  -----
"It is exceedingly easy to demonstrate that utopians are unrealistic or that their societies are boring; it is especially easy if you in retrospect have the answer at hand and do not understand how contemporaries perceived the problems. ... In no way was [the author Edward] Bellamy [1850-1898] a realist in his concrete depiction of an ideal future state. But his starting point was indeed realistic, because he realized that man's future must be built on a more sensible relationship to nature and its resources."
T. Frängsmyr, T. (1980). Progress or decay, p.149.

----- On decay as the mother of all utopias  -----
"A society in crisis creates unrealistic, otherwordly utopias [and] a society in balance gives birth to hopes of continued developments. ... If you are dissatisfied with societal developments, you will want something different; decay gives birth to utopia. ... Decay stands in opposition to progress, utopia stands in opposition to belief in the future. Anyone who experiences society as if in crisis wanted a change so radical that the ideal image had a an imaginary character. Anyone who was happy with society hoped for continued and similar developments; you just had to move forward on the path taken."
Frängsmyr, T. (1980). Progress or decay, p.225-227

----- Prediction is hard, especially about the future  -----
"Predictive power appears to be an even more elusive skill if one takes into account the observation that any attempt of anticipation is generally fed back into the sysem (e.g., through the reactions of important stakeholders) and thus modifies teh very assumptions, conditions, and processes that were involved in the original projections. In other words, we are faced here with the dilemma of self-destroying prophecy!If a scientific study were to predict, for instance, that technological innovation as generated by pre market forces would suffice to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at subdangerous levels, then each and every climate policymaker could complacently lean back only to miss the opportunities for the strategic induction of the pertinent innovations."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.xxi.

----- On the history and future of human-induced environmental change  -----
"This volume is divided into five sections, with the overall organizational principle being the timescale at which the analyses are conducted. The approach was to address the collection, integration, interpretation, and analysis of knowledge on human history and environmental change at three complimentary temporal scales for the past - millennial, centennial, decadal - and to bring the same tools to a consideration of the future."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.5.

----- On "risk spirals"  -----
"Dearing et al. ... defined a risk spiral as being derived from "... a transformation of environmental complexity into social complexity. The key point is that while human actions often succeed in reducing specific risks, these efforts also create qualitatively new risks at a larger spatial scale and/or a longer time frame." The notion of risk spirals points to a dangerous positive feedback loop. As human societies become more complex, they are less able to withstand shocks from the natural world and, ironically, in the process of making themselves more complex, societies inadvertently and (often) unknowingly change natural systems in ways that make these systems more prone to abrupt changes or extreme events!"
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.14.

----- On the trade-off between short-term production and long-term sustainability  -----
"'A critical aspect of any society is the trade-off between short-term production and long-term resilience or sustainability. These values are often in conflict. In general, there is a need to keep production well below theoretical carrying capacity to avoid a severe drop in resilience. Cultural traditions have played an important role in building long-term resilience by acting as a brake on short-term production that would damage or diminish resilience and long-term sustainability. During the Great Acceleration [following World War II], many of these cultural traditions dissipated such tat resilience and long-term sustainability may be adversely affected.""
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.14.

----- On the lack of quality measures for information  -----
"Grades for quality are routinely assigned in innumerable spheres of activity in our society (e.g., academic performance or quality of meat and eggs). Yet in the case of information, one of the most sensitive products we have, there are no standard systems for grading and hence no means for a socially effective system of quality control."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.40.

----- On uncertainty  -----
"No scientific activity is free from uncertainty ... These include inexactness (as expressed by significant digits), unreliability (as expressed in systematic error), epistemic uncertainty, linguistic uncertainty, and others. No amount of sophisticated apparatus and computer power can replace theoretical understanding of the problems of uncertainty or the practical skills of controlling and communicating it."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.41.

----- On the Mayan miracle  -----
"The ancient Maya ... occupied a geographic region of 250,000 km2 with an uninterrupted cultural legacy of at least 1500 years. Although much is made of their well-know, if little understood, collapse in the 9th century A.D. ... the long-lived success of the Maya within a difficult and frequently inhospitable semitropical environment warrants greater attention. As a primary civilization, or a highly complex social order unlike any preceding it, and the only such "state" from a tropical regime, the Maya are best known for their towering pyramids, elaborate ball courts, developed art forms, and a writing system unparalleled elsewhere in the pre-Hispanic Americas. So how is it that a primary civilization without the wheel, sail, metal tools, beasts of burden, or navigable rivers was capable of supporting an estimated 10 million people by A.D. 700?
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.52.

----- Can renewables pay the bills after we have spent the fossil surpluses?  -----
"For an agrarian empire, the highest net returns are realized in the conquest phase, when the accumulated surpluses of the subject peoples are appropriated. These surpluses are the stored accumulation of past solar energy, transformed into the production of precious metals, works of art, and peasant populations. As have many empire-builders, Rome found their conquests initially to be highly profitable. ... Once these accumulated surpluses are spent, the conqueror must assume responsibility to garrison, administer, and defend the province. These responsibilities may last centuries and are typically financed from yearly agricultural surpluses. The concentrated, high-quality resources available at conquest give way to resources derived from dispersed subsistence agriculture, which yields little surplus per capita ... Costs rise and benefits decline. When fresh problems arise, they must be met by taxing the populace, and if tax rates are insufficient they will likely be raised."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.62.

----- On the Roman Empires as the original Evil Empire  -----
"[In] The tax system of the late [Roman] Empire ... rates were so high that peasant proprietors could accumulate no reserves. ...If 50% of the yield went to seed and subsistence, then tax amounted to one-half to two-thirds of the surplus (or in bad years, all of it). If barbarians raided, or drought or locusts diminshed the crop, farmers either borrowed or starved. Eventually their land passed to creditors, to whom they became tenants. Whatever crops were brought in had to be sold for taxes, even if it meant starvation for the farmer and his family. Farmers who could not pay their taxes were jailed, sold their children into slavery, or abandoned their homes and fields. ... The state, moreover, always had a backup on taxes due, extending obligations to widows or orphans, even to dowries. ... Under these circumstance it became unprofitable to cultivate marginal land as too often it would not yield enough for taxes and surplus. And so land came increasingly to be deserted."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.67-68.

----- On us, (not) really solving environmental and other societal problems  -----
"Hierarchical systems tend to commit themselves to specific structures and solutions, establishing brittleness where flexibility may be required. ... Today's approach to understanding environmental problems - on the part of both policy makers and scientists - has been largely hierarchical: authoritative, distant, and too often decontextualized. ... The upper levels in any hierarchical system act only on aggregated, filtered information and respond slowly to signals from below."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.69-70.

----- On (the costs of) complexity vs resilience  -----
"Complexity has great utility in problem solving, but it also costs. The evolution of complexity is a benefit-cost relation. The costs of complexity may be measured in energy, metabolic rates, labor, money time, or any other unit of accounting. At the time a problem arises, increments to complexity may seem small and affordable. It is the continual accumulation of complexity and costs that becomes detrimental. As a benefit-cost function, complexity in problem solving can reach diminishing returns and become ineffective. In their complex phase, institutions may lack the fiscal reserves to address new challenges, whether the new challenges are hostile neighbors or environmental perturbations. A society that has adopted much costly complexity may lose resilience and become vulnerable to challenges that it could once have overcome and even become more likely to collapse."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.71.

----- On increasing costs and decreasing returns  -----
"In the early phases ... increasing complexity is typically effective, giving increasing returns ... The problem with complexity comes when additional expenditures fail to produce proportionate benefits. ... Many of the problems noted above fall into the same category of undertaking higher costs merely to maintain the status quo: energy costs, security, replacing infrastructure, funding retirement pensions, and paying for education. Much money will be spent restoring the environmental damage caused by previous economic activity and mitigating the effects of climate change. Given budgetary constraints in every nation, funding for much of this activity will be inadequate and some problems may not be addressed at all ... If addressing the problems we foresee should cause the industrial standard of living to stagnate or fall, existing forms of government may lose legitimacy."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.71-72.

----- On Syria, before the civil war  -----
"On a millennial timescale, settlement of the marginal rainfall zone [in Northeastern Syria] fluctuated, with periods of occupation on the order of 1-300 years; abandonments lasted a thousand or more years. ... [Modern] Syrian agriculture is dominated by national needs and is supported directly through production quotas, provision of seed and fertilizer, inexpensive fuel and water, and agricultural loans for the purchase of equipment. Long-range planning and construction have generally been based on optimistic projections rather than sound assessment of sustainability. The growth of human populations and their increasing wealth have contributed to the problem through rising demand for goods that can be supplied only trough further intensification of pressure on the land."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.83.

----- On Australia, when humans arrived  -----
"I have argued [elsewhere] that rapid overkill of the large herbivores led to the accumulation of plant biomass, which in turn led to a changed fire regime. ... In summary, it is now clear that Australia underwent a profound transition in ecosystem function around the time that people arrived on the continent. Precise timing and cause and effect are still being vigorously debated, but there is now little doubt that humans were key factors in this change. As a result of the shift, the biological productivity of Australian ecosystems plummeted, and its climate was possibley changed."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.90.

----- On the connection between anomalous weather events and the French revolution  -----
"The price of bread doubled between 1787 and October 1788. By midwinter 1788-1789, clergy estimated that one-fifth of the population of Paris had become dependent on charitable relief of some sort. ... The excessive cold and food shortages of early 1789 drove increased poaching and stealing. There were regular attacks on grain transports both on road and river. Bakeries and granaries were also robbed. ... In the summer of 1789 much of France rose in revolt; in cities, urban crowds rioted. How far the resulting course of revolution had its roots in the anomalous climatic situation of the period is open to debate. What is certain is that the part played by extreme weather events in bringing about social disturbance during the French Revolution simply cannot be neglected."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.160-161.

----- Doomsday prediction by a "dysterkvist"  -----
"This chapter contends that the nation-state ... is beset by inherent contradictions that are characteristic of complex societies. ... With glaring differences in lifestyles exposed by the media, rising expectations, limited growth potential (both due to disparities in wealth appropriation), and with a burgeoning world population, coupled with a massive assault on almost all world biomes everywhere in the world, the framework for modelling the future cannot be limited to the interplay of environmental and economic variables. Before the world is exhausted from environmental fatigue, it is more likely to descend into a nightmare of civil unrest, violence, and despair as a result of the failure of current political systems to address social grievances, the problematic of identity ... and the loss of hope in resolving outstanding disparities. The situation is now exacerbated by a disgruntled younger generation well-tuned to the ideologies and technologies of violent protest that have characterized the recent history of European nations."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.169.

----- On promises given that cannot be upheld  -----
"In recent decades, the impact of multinational corporations and information communication technologies have progressively undermined the monopolies of governments on information and weakened their ability to control their nationals. By promising economic welfare, prosperity, and security, the modern ruling elite have unleashed an unprecedented wave of rising expectations. Such expectations can hardly be met even with continued economic growth because those who have still want more, while those who do not have try by any means to gain what is, in the ideology of the modern state, their unalienable right."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.171.

----- On Stupid Unsustainable Cities  -----
"The cancerous expansion of urbanization and explosive (and implosive) increase in cities has placed humanity today at unprecedented levels of risk. The recent aggrandizement of cities and their unstoppable spread was enabled by higher rates of agricultural production: mass, fast, transport and distribution of food products and other resources, and food processing. Although this system is potentially capable of serving humanity through judicious integration of food resources and distribution to ensure equity and harmony with ecological resilience, it has led instead to socially disruptive and ecologically disastrous consequences as certain urban centers in rich, industrial states use the world (mainly outside their borders) for ruinous short-term agricultural ventures, cash-cropping, deforestation, and intensive use of machinery, fossil fuel, pesticides, and fertilizers."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.187.

----- On global wealth disparities and the resulting despair  -----
"A policy that ignores the call of the weak and downtrodden, that is blind to misery and disease, and which lives on borrowed time must sooner or later suffer from internal moral callousness and duplicity as well as from desperate resistance by those who have no hope for a better future and whose lives are no longer worth living. It may be that the dignity they gain in desperate actions is perhaps their only salvation in a world that has turned a deaf ear to their suffering, or those with whom they identify."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.192.

----- On social complexity as a one-way street  -----
"Human beings ... appropriate the environment by reducing its complexity in exchange for increasing the complexity of their societies. Once this has been accomplished, however, there is no return ... Once a garden has been created out of a wilderness, one is bound to keep gardening. In addition, the more one has transformed the original wilderness, the more gardening there is to be done!"
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.215.

----- On how (slow) societal collapse manifests itself  -----
"after the end of the Roman Empire ... between A.D. 600 and 1000, the whole of the fabric of society reached a higher level of entropy in western Europe ... trade and long-distance contact diminished greatly, urban population dwindled ... and most villages were abandoned All of society seems to fall back on immediate, local, survival strategies. [from the footnote:] ... it seems that loss of skills is due to the (high) cost of maintaining those skills versus the (limited) local benefit obtained. Labor was needed for survival and locally one could not afford specialist artisans; the market (and thus the profit) to be obtained by artisans shrank with the withering of their lines of communication."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.224.

----- On the Renaissance information revolution  -----
"Through relatively unregulated commerce and industry, which profited from increased contrasts between the rich and the poor, Italian (e.g., Medici), German (e.g., Fugger), and later Dutch and British heads of commercial houses amassed enormous wealth, and used it to bankroll the interminable political conflicts and wars that disrupted the continent. In the process, they and their societies extended their control over much of the Western world. To expand and maintain that control, they created extensive, centralized networks for the gathering and communication of information, which included numerous spies in every important commercial, financial, and political center, as well as the first private courier services. By investing in this information-processing infrastructure, these houses (and in their wake the political powers) explicitly acknowledged the fact that their power and influence was essentially based on their superior knowledge abut what was going on in the world. Power is enhanced both by getting control over information flows and constructing new forms of information flow."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.228.

----- On wealth production before and after the industrial revolution  -----
"Europe moved from being a zone in which internal consumption of high-value goods produced elsewhere generated most of the wealth, to one that mass-produced a wide range of goods for export and marketing throughout the rest of the world. ... Until the Industrial Revolution, the large majority of the (rural) population had been so far removed from the process of wealth generation that it was relatively easy for the dominant classes to control the whole of the structure that generated their wealth. Now, for the first time, very large numbers of people became involved in the new wealth production system. Industrialization tied a very large working class to the (mechanized) production industry (e.g., coal mines, steel mills, textile factories) through low-paid, often dangerous, mass production jobs that gave little personal satisfaction and created much resentment. ... Slowly but surely eduction came to be seen as the only way out of misery for large groups of the population, and some of the educated engaged the political battle to achieve this."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.231.

----- On "being late to the banquet table" as a source for World Wars I and II  -----
"In the latter part of the 19th century, Italy and Germany united into territorial states and then attempted to create colonial empires. Despite these attempts, however, the Germans and Italians were essentially too late and had to content themselves with the leftovers of the colonial banquet table,. This fact contributed importantly to the cause of World Wars I and II that followed, as both countries sought expansion in Europe because it was denied them elsewhere."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.232.

----- On disturbances, risks and "time bombs"  -----
"In general, the effect of a series of human interventions in the natural environment is a reduction in the number of (known) minor disturbances, which gives the impression of increasing stability or control over the environment, as well as an increase in the risk of occurrence of less frequent, unexpected disturbances of unknown nature and scope (so-called "unintended consequences"). Over the long term, this may lead to a buildup of major unknown risks, or "time bombs." Once the density of such time bombs is sufficiently high, major crises are likely to occur."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.232.

----- On mundane infrastructure ruling over time and space  -----
"Many European landscapes and ecosystems are clearly the products of previous agricultural regimes, but some have evolved along trajectories that many be essentially irreversible or have yet to reach a dynamic equilibrium. ... Also, the legacy of the width of the U.K. and U.S. railway carriages, which in turn was a function of the width of coaches being driven in Europe over roads originally built in Roman times, is now seen in terms of the constraints on the size of NADA's rocket boosters!"
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.255.

----- On path dependency and lock-in  -----
"The differences in development trajectories span the extremes of "high intensity" (U.S.) to "high efficiency" (Japan). These originate in differences in initial conditions (e.g., resource endowments, relative prices) that lead to the adoption of particular technology and infrastructure development trajectories, which in turn influence, for example, settlement patterns and economic structures. Because of the cumulative nature of technological change, such development trajectories are persistent and maintain their momentum even when initial conditions (e.g., resource abundance) no longer prevail. This twin dependence on initial conditions and the development path followed has come to be know as "path dependency" and its resulting technological inertia as "lock-in."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.261.

----- On industrial growth in the 20th century and the emergence of an environmental movement  -----
"restraint in the interest of the biosphere was rarely given any consideration at all until the emergence of a more or less worldwide environmental movement in the 1960s. Although it had its precedents in many times and places, this was something novel, more general, more popular, and more sustained than prior conservation or preservation movements. It was provoked primarily by unbridled pollution ... Thus it was that the global economy grew 14-fold in the 20th century, human population 4-fold, industrial production 40-fold, and energy use about 13-fold. Nothing like this had ever happened before in human history. The mere fact of such growth, and its unevenness among societies, made for profound disruptions in both environment and society.
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.302-303.

----- On bottlenecks as the nexus for power struggles  -----
"The Great Depression of the 1930s made life harder in most colonies, raising rebellious sentiments. Colonial economies generally had a vulnerability that well-organized anticolonial nationalist could exploit. State revenues depended on exports of crops or minerals, which passed through the bottlenecks of railroad lines and ports. So when railwaymen or dockers went on strike, the colonial sate risked insolvency, a fact eagerly exploited by insightful anticolonial nationalist as of the late 1930s."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.313.

----- On extreme economic growth as the norm  -----
"Soon after World War II ended, the global economy entered its most remarkable era, growing 6-fold between 1950 and 1998. Indeed in the quarter century before 1973, the world's economy grew at nearly 5% per year, and 3% per year per capita. Yet even when economic growth slowed after 1973, it galloped faster than at any time before 1950. Taken as a whole, this era is the most unusual in the history of economic growth, although many people, having experienced nothing else, now imagine it is normal. It happened because of oil and energy, medicine and population growth, science and technology."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.315.

----- On immigration as a boon to the rich but a threat to the poorest native-born  -----
"In absolute number, the U.S. and Canada had more immigrants than any time in their history by 2000, although in 1913 the proportion of immigrants to native-born was much higher. In general, cheap transport, cheap information about conditions elsewhere in the world, and relaxed quotas on migration encouraged scores of millions to uproot and try their luck elsewhere. By 2000 some 125 million people lived as immigrants, and the annual flow of legal migrants totaled about 2 million. Most, as in the past, were poor and unskilled, but a large minority had strong educations and marketable skills. This accelerating swirl of migrations helped ease the stresses of rapid population growth in places such as Algeria or El Salvador. It provided willing laborers in France or the U.S. or Saudi Arabia, often in jobs that few native-born citizens would take. ... In economic terms, it proved helpful to all but the laboring classes in recipient countries, whose wages were held down by the competition of immigrants. In cultural and political terms the great swirl brought new tensions. Most Britons did not welcome large numbers of Pakistanis or Jamaicans in their midst, and Algerians in France, Turks in Germany, and Filipinos in Kuwait also met cold receptions."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.318.

----- On the effects of the "informationalization" of the world economy  -----
"The consequences of the electrification of information are hard to assess because the process is still in train. It has clearly played a large role in the "financialization" of the world economy. It has enriched the information-intensive service sector more than manufacturing and agriculture. It has strengthened the premium on education in the modern world, increasing the rewards for those who acquire schooling and shrinking the rewards for those who can contribute only a strong back or a nimble pair of hands. I has, so far, enhanced the status of English worldwide ... It changed the conduct of warfare for those who could afford it (mainly the U.S.), because satellites linked to computers allowed a level of precision with long-regne weaponry previously impossible. But it created new vulnerabilities as well as new capacities."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.319.

----- On how new media have changed the world during the last 100 years  -----
"The ... communications and transport technologies that shaped the 20th century (telephone, radio, television, movies, automobile, airplane, Internet) ... altered the everyday lives of billions of people, enlarging their range of experience and their access to information. ... The cumulative effect of all these changes ... was to bombard people with new information, impressions, and ideas, and to allow more of them to travel further, faster, and more frequently than ever before. This proved disconcerting and disorienting, as well as deductive. It invited people to suppose that their circumstances need not be as they were, but could be improved - through emigration, revolution, education, hard work, crime, or some other initiative. With radio, movies, and television in particular, hungry illiterates could catch a glimpse (accurate or not) of how more fortunate people lived. This information, combined with massive urbanization ... inspired both ambition and resentment, providing potential recruits for an array of political movements."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.320-321.

----- On the rise (and the degradation) of The Scientist  -----
"In Darwin's day, science remained an occupation for gentlemen of leisure (or rarely gentlewomen) or academics. They typically worked alone, although thanks to post offices and scientific societies they communicated frequently with their fellow researches. ... In 1900, the two most scientifically advanced nations, Germany and Britain, had about 8,000 working scientists, but by 1980, the U.S. alone boasts over a million, and western Europe employed still more. After WWII showed what enormous funding and scientific manpower could do, governments and businesses increasingly bankrolled scientific research. While they were prepared to pay for a modest amount of pure science - disinterested inquiry about, say, the origins of the Universe - what they most wanted was applied science that would help build a better mousetrap - or, after the rise of biotechnology in the 1980s, a better mouse."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.321-322.

----- On the rise of and the use of capital-letter Science  -----
"The wedding of science and technology took place in the late 19th century. With the imperial powers, chiefly Germany and Britain, competing to develop superior navies, governments began to organize scientists and engineers into teams directed to generate useful military technology. Scientific expertise gradually became a crucial component of military security. In the 1870s, industrial firms in Germany and the U.S. created their own research laboratories and maintained flocks of scientists assigned to solve particular problems. Chemical firms in particular developed ties with universities, financing research and assuring a stream of skilled graduates. As governments and firms became increasingly involved in funding science, the thrust of inquiry shifted toward applied science that could help win wars, improve health, and expand wealth."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.322.

----- On urbanization as the premier social challenge of this century  -----
"Urbanization and population growth stands as the cardinal social change of the last century. For 5,000 years or more the typical human experience was village life, and human ideologies, institution, and customs all evolved primarily in that setting. Now the majority human experience is that of city life with its anonymity and impersonal character. Past eras of urbanization, all slow and circumscribed compared to the modern one, put great pressure on reigning religions, ideologies, and worldviews as well as on standing political structures. Among the acute challenges of our time, it seems sure, is the process of social, political, psychological, moral, and ecological adjustment to life in the big city."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.323.

----- On global population growth in the 20th century  -----
"The acceleration of death from political causes [in the 20th century] did not nearly match the deceleration of death from public health measures and improved nutrition. ... [But] ... By 1920 almost every corner of Europe had reduced its fertility sharply ... Whereas in Europe in 1900 emigration took away about one-third of the natural increase, in India, China, Latin America, and Africa emigration did not notably reduce pressures. Instead, population growth promoted political unrest, urbanization, and desperate state efforts to industrialize overnight. Africa's population history was especially dramatic - a 6- or 7-fold increase to roughly 750 million in the course of one century."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.324.

----- On why environmental problems always play second fiddle  -----
"Our political institutions, which evolved over millennia to cope with other challenges, proved ill suited to large-scale but slow-moving environmental problems. The competitive international system impels states to maximize their wealth and power in the short run, assigning low priority to other concerns. ... The impetus for effective response to environmental ills came mainly from citizen agitation. That agitation typically focused on problems whose solution did not require any material sacrifice from the citizenry, nor much trust and co-operation across national boundaries. In rich countries in the 1980s, for example, it proved easy enough to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution from power plants or lead emissions from automobile exhausts by changing or altering fuels and engines. But few people desired the sacrifices that seemed necessary to check carbon dioxide emissions or fertilizer runoff. Environmental outcomes around the world reflected the preferences and compromises embedded in the prevailing political system."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.327-328.

----- On opposing perspectives and fundamental disconnects  -----
"Social science seeks to theorize specific relationships, such as those between population and environment. In terms of population, there is a fundamental disagreement between Malthusians, who see population as a primary cause of environmental problems, and those who perceive population to be a resource that can be used to manage the environment more efficiently and sustainably. Technology has been viewed as the main cause of environmental degradation or as the solution to environmental problems"
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.346.

----- On nonlinear connections and the fate of the ozone layer  -----
"There are many examples of surprises and nonlinearities in the Earth system. Discovery of the ozone hole itself came as a complete surprise, because the ozone layer in the stratosphere was thought to be very stable. ... In addition, a near disaster was averted, during the development phase of refrigerants and propellants (in the 1920s), when chlorine compounds were chosen instead of bromine compounds. Although bromine was more efficient than chlorine, it was also more expensive, and thus, an administrative decision was taken in favor of chlorine - a serendipitous decision as it turns out, for bromine compounds are also  about 100 times more reactive in the atmosphere than chlorine ones. Had bromine been used, the results would have been much worse: there would have been a much deeper ozone hole over the entire planet during all seasons."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.368.

----- On different sorts of forecasts  -----
"Numerous names for efforts to foretell the future are used commonly as synonyms. Among them are: conjecture, prediction, prophecy, scenario, prognostication, augury, divination, projection, prognosis, and forecasts. ... An influential futurist in the social sciences, Frenchmen Bertrand de Jouvenel, used the term *conjecture* ... But professionals in the field have come to prefer the word *forecast*. ... Some forecasts are *philosophical*. ... Some forecasts are *defensive*. ... Some forecasts are *proactive*. ... The consequences of an inaccurate forecast in each of the three situations are very different. The criteria for deciding if the forecast was useful are also very different, and each of the forecasts could possibly be quite useful, even if it turned out to provide an inaccurate picture of the future."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.400-401.

----- On obsolete world views taking their time to die  -----
"In 1972 [when Limits to Growth was published] it had not yet occurred to the vast majority of humanity that there was any chance our species could expand its physical demands on the planet to levels that would cause serious, irreversible damage to key ecosystems. However, through the 1980s and 1990s this awareness began to dawn. ... Of course some details of the original Limits to Growth forecasts remain in doubt. But the global community of biological and physical scientists no longer disputes that physical expansion in population and industrial activities are causing irreversible damage to important earthly ecosystems. So why can many skeptics still claim the opposite ... scientists or policy makers, who have found one view of the world to be useful first ignore and then, when that becomes impossible, bitterly fight against information that might suggest a different view is more valid or useful. ... when there are enormous ego, financial, or political benefits at stake; when the establishment controls the channels of communication and sets the rules of the battle; the fight between proponents of an obsolete and a new paradigm can be long and rancorous. In the case of Galileo, it was only 350 years after his death, in 1992, when the Church finally admitted that errors had been made in his 1633 trial."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.405-408.

----- On economists' dysmal predictive powers  -----
"Economists ... work and think with essentially linear models. Their goal is precise prediction of numerical values in the near future. They have notorious difficulty with delays, nonlinearities, and unquantified variables. So variables for which there is not an extensive data series are generally omitted from their forecasts. That is one reason their forecasts have such poor accuracy when called upon to predict variables that lie far outside the period for which they have data."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.411.

----- On the struggle between science and power-political shenanigans  -----
"misrepresentation, misunderstanding, and malevolence are characteristic of those within the establishment who feel threatened by potential for a major paradigm shift. ... Be aware! Do not imagine you are entering a scientific exercise in which the best theories and data will inevitably and quickly win. Scenarios that portray futures for the complex global system will challenge the perceived vested interests of important players. Ego gratification and self-importance, political influence and financial income are at stake. When people see threats to these,they do not respond as scientists eager to improve their knowledge; they fight back and attempt to destroy the credibility of the messenger."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.413.

----- On assumptions of limits vs unlimited-growth  -----
"[The Limits to Growth computer model] has been criticized on methodological grounds. ... the essential difference in pre-anlytic visions centers around the existence and role of limits: thermodynamic limits, natural resource limits, pollution absorption limits, population carrying capacity limits, and, most importantly, the limits of our understanding about where these limits are and how they influence the system. The alternative unlimited growth model, derived from neoclassical economic theory ... assumes there are no limits that cannot be overcome by continued technological progress, whereas the limited growth model assumes that there are limits, based on thermodynamic first principles and observations of natural ecosystems. Ultimately, we don not know which pre-analytic vision is correct (they are, after all, assumptions). Thus we have to consider the relative costs of being wrong in each case."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.427-428.

----- On defining the term collapse  -----
"Let us define *collapse* as any situation where the rate of change to a system:
- has negative effects on human welfare, which, in the short or long term, are socially intolerable;
- will result in a fundamental downsizing, a loss of coherence, and/or significant restructuring of the constellation of arrangements that characterize the system; and
- cannot be stopped or controlled via an incremental change in behavior, resource allocation, or institutional values.
In addition, collapses can be characterized according to whether they are (a) capricious or predictable, linear or nonlinear and chaotic, unexpected or expected; (b) irreversible or reversible; or (c) have local, regional, or global consequences. ... For the purpose of developing models and scenarios, we define the opposite of collapse as a set of arrangements that retain system coherence, are accepted by humans as evolving at acceptable rates, and do not diminish perceived quality of life. In many cases, considerable reconfiguration ... is possible without collapse."
Costanza, R. et. al. (2007). Sustainability or collapse?, p.450.

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