So here is an interesting trifecta long-read series for your edutainment:
1. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (2005)
3. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan (2016)
These are not short reads; the audio books are all 20 or so hours long (and I deserve a medal for listening to Gore drone on that long, okay?). I’m not sure it matters what order you read them in, honestly.
What is interesting is these are three very different books connected by the topic of “natural resources” and when linked together create a coherent framework on which to hang arguments/debates about humans and our environmental impact, and how that directly affects both individual civilizations and the global economy as a whole. And, of course, global ecology.
Frankopan takes very long historical view at how natural resources such as silk, minerals, and petroleum have been far more influential in determining the rise and fall of civilizations and governments than any royal marriage or war, with a great refocus on the middle east/east Asia as “the heart of the world” — western Europe does not shine in his analysis, let me tell you, and it’s an elegant way for us eurocentric minded people to break out of our bubble. To note: Frankopan has a chip on his shoulder and it’s very much about how governments trying to control the natural resources of other countries for their own gain is a Very Bad Thing For Everyone(tm). Also, given how much I’ve read about WWI, I’m always surprised to discover a very new analysis of that cataclysm, but Frankopan delivers.
Diamond, of course, deals with how the relationship between human civilization and natural resources affects community longevity — the title is a bit more sensationalistic than the actual material covered, but Diamond draws a strong line between “that land was never meant to support people well in the first place” vs. “people stripping natural resources until their civilization collapses”. He also talks about some success stories and touches on human-caused climate change. As with most of his work, he’s obviously biased but goes to great lengths in an effort to be fair to all perspectives/opinions.
Gore’s book is a bear to struggle through, no lie, but also critical to this whole discussion. He also has a very long chapter on automation (which he terms “robosourcing” and I’m sad that term has not caught on, it’s absolutely perfect) and how that will affect civilizations, with an eye on overpopulation vs. lack of jobs and how that might affect ecology. This book is more alarmist than the previous two, and Gore is not in the least bit interested in humoring his opponents on this issue, which honestly I find refreshing because, ten years after the book was published, these inconvenient truths are more critical than ever.
Three large books that taken together present a sobering and sometimes terrifying view of where we are now, and where we are going. One of my many takeaways from these books is that most anti-regulatory supporters and climate change deniers are simply working from a perspective that lacks scale; their belief that nature is auto-correcting is not wrong, not at all, but they fail to comprehend the magnitude at which humans are messing around with our global environment or, if they do, fail to apply the very long time frame that auto-correction (or, in some cases, adaptation of an entirely new environment) will take.
Got another “trifecta recommendation” coming up soon, this one on American history of the first third of the 20th century. I know you just can’t wait!!!! 😀