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September 30, 2014


Pulitzer Prize-winning Jared Diamond for his book Guns, Germs and Steel has also authored the book Collapse, an outstanding achievement as well. I keep it and a few others at my bedside as reference points for other books and matter I read daily, a sieve (so to speak) through which the content of my daily reading must pass muster before it can be taken as worthy of serious consideration, a barrier through which Wall Street propaganda, commercial fluff and other such manipulative words and phrases in print as well as TV and the Internet are thrown at you and me with scant regard for truth.

There are many such manipulators among us, ranging from the soul-saving to those involved in monopolistic pricing of goods and services, all involved in what we euphemistically call “advertising,” so-called “dealers’ puffing” at its best. When we the unwary buy such goods and services we are, of course, paying for our own brainwashing since such “advertising” costs are part of the price we pay. Worse, we pay even more whether we bought the car or the chemical advertised since gainsaying corporations who sell us such goods and nostrums take advertising costs as a deduction from income, thereby reducing their tax loads and increasing ours, even among us who did not buy their goods and services in another replay of socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the rest of us. Collapse is essentially about a comparison of older cultures that have collapsed and the reasons why, a few that have collapsed recently, those in the process of collapsing, and how lessons that should have been learned from such history may have application to collapse of cultures today. He identifies the factors leading to historical collapses and speculates on their application to potential collapses today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on the root causes rather than such popular oversimplifications as the clothes worn and music played by rebellious youth, a recurring situation we have probably had since the lyres of biblical reference to today’s screaming “concerts,” perhaps beginning with the dawn of civilization circa 13,000 years ago with chanting rather than far more complicated offerings of a Bach or Mozart thousands of years later. As can be seen, Darwin-less social science evolves, too. The most certain cause for collapse of all cultures wherever located on the planet is, of course, atomic war, but assuming that doesn’t happen and with the foregoing and some of the following as prologue, this essay will discuss one of the universal effects of one of the many Diamond-identified causes of collapse – toxic substances we ingest. No one is exempted from the direct effects of such ingestion, from the peasants of the Third World to the superrich of the First, as we shall see.

Globalization suggests that the all of the planet’s cultures will collapse in lockstep due to our inattention to numerous and accelerating disasters in waiting that affect all of our planet’s cultures, such as global warming and making cesspools out of our oceans – as opposed to Mayan and Easter Island societies whose cultures individually collapsed from local environmental calamities such as the Malthusian havoc created by deforestation and topsoil erosion and prolonged drought, and predictably, political infighting. Famines cause people to fight with one another over scarce resources with consequent loss of social cohesion, thus killing even more prematurely when such negative energy expended in revolution and civil uprisings could have been expended in efforts to expand food supply. Rational response to disaster or the threat of it among human societies, as several authorities have written, is at the mercy of stone-aged brains, whose Darwinian-paced evolution is far slower than the problems we have created with our accelerated technology, inattention to environmental problems (both man-made and natural), and on the social side – our grim pursuit of profit.

We may, and perhaps as usual, be our own worst enemy in not working on our common problems and their effects, whether crusading under the cause of flag or cross or humanism or “the market” in our attempts to rationalize our inattention and greedy conduct to fit the mores and folkways of the day, some manufactured by the particular “ism” then in vogue. We thus can be said to contain the seeds of our own destruction in that it is not the environmental problems of this day and tomorrow that themselves constitute a threat to global collapse of human societies but rather the determined resistance of large and noisy elements of both First and Third World societies that refuse to address such problems, as in the emerging economies with their “You First Worlders have had your fun with your pollution; now it’s our turn to pollute to catch up with you” to the First Worlders who say that controls on pollution are overplayed and that such controls are bad for business. My response is that global collapse of human societies is also bad for business and that nobody can catch up with a standard that doesn’t exist due to collapse

. Part II will begin with a discussion of an unusual topic – Inuit mother’s milk found to be in a range high enough (due to ingestion of PCBs – polychlorinated bi-phenyls) to classify such milk as “hazardous waste” and identified further as causes for their babies’ high rates of ear and respiratory infections along with infant hearing loss, altered brain development and suppressed immune function. Oh, those Eskimos are thousands of miles away and out of sight and out of mind and I don’t need to worry about them? Think again. Their problems are your problems, and are set to intensify as globalization, overcrowding and immigration continue at accelerated rates. I will discuss these problems and their relationship to our “cesspooling” of Earth’s oceans in Part II. Stay tuned. GERALD E


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