How Civilizations Fall Through Catabolic Collapse

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Article: How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse. By John Michael Greer



The collapse of complex human societies remains poorly understood and current theories fail to model important features of historical examples of collapse.

Relationships among resources, capital, waste, and production form the basis for an ecological model of collapse in which production fails to meet maintenance requirements for existing capital. Societies facing such crises after having depleted essential resources risk catabolic collapse, a self-reinforcing cycle of contraction converting most capital to waste. This model allows key features of historical examples of collapse to be accounted for, and suggests parallels between successional processes in nonhuman ecosystems and collapse phenomena in human societies.