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More on the Adaptive Cycle
From the same article, The Big Picture, by Richard Heinberg in Resilence.org.
IG, Dec 24, 2018.
(I fixed the graphic so it fits.)
Why Civilizations Collapse: The Adaptive Cycle
Ecosystems have been observed almost universally to repeatedly pass through four phases of the adaptive cycle: exploitation, conservation, release, and reorganization. Imagine, for example, a Ponderosa pine forest. Following a disturbance such as a fire (in which stored carbon is released into the environment), hardy and adaptable “pioneer” species of plants and small animals fill in open niches and reproduce rapidly.
This reorganization phase of the cycle soon transitions to an exploitation phase, in which those species that can take advantage of relationships with other species start to dominate. These relationships make the system more stable, but at the expense of diversity.
During the conservation phase, resources like nutrients, water, and sunlight are so taken up by the dominant species that the system as a whole eventually loses its flexibility to deal with changing conditions. These trends lead to a point where the system is susceptible to a crash—a release phase. Many trees die, dispersing their nutrients, opening the forest canopy to let more light in, and providing habitat for shrubs and small animals. The cycle starts over.
This model has been applied to social systems as well as ecological ones. So the obvious question is, has the cycle started over for technological civilization?
There is a short essay by Naomi Oreskes, Cultural Historian at Harvard U, called The Collapse of Western Civilization, set in the year 2320 in the Second People’s Republic of China. It is available online too.