Learning From Our Past

Humanity today is in an age of decision making; we must decide to take action and begin to save our planet, or we must come to terms with our inevitable downfall. The most vital question now isn’t of what we can do to ensure we don’t overuse or misuse our resources – although it’s still important to consider – but we’ve passed that point. Gladwell’s review of Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” discusses the history of societal collapses. Although our focus today is more on what we can do to prevent our world from becoming uninhabitable, it’s still valuable to look at past societies and learn from their mistakes. The Norse in Greenland, as Gladwell pointed out, were more focused on their cultural values than their ecological values, which led to their extinction. They refused to eat fish, even up until the very end, and wouldn’t even begin to think of learning from the Inuits. They also didn’t realize that Greenland, having a much different environment from the European continent, had to be treated differently. But they managed their surroundings with no consideration of this, and this ultimately led to their death.

Gladwell’s points at the end regarding Measure 37 had some good information to mull over. I’ve personally always felt a kind of pride for Oregon’s treatment of the environment, and I hope that cultural or economic standards of the present day don’t negatively effect our practices involving the environment. It would be a shame to watch our communities be pulled in to the economic debates that directly impact our surroundings. This is a time where the lessons we can learn from past societies are incredibly important. Although both are certainly important, we shouldn’t put more value into our economy than our environments. We can’t forget the history of our planet and place our cultural or economic values above our world.

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