Roman Empire collapsed because they neglected environment

Roman Empire collapsed because they neglected environment

The popular conception is that Rome collapsed because of the decadence of its ruling class, the corruption of its leaders, the exploitation of its servants and slaves, and the superior military tactics of invading hordes. While there is merit to this argument, the deeper cause of Rome's collapse lies in the declining fertility of its soil and the decrease in agricultural yields. Its cultural production could not provide sufficient energy to maintain Rome's infrastructure and the welfare of its citizens. The exhaustion of Rome's only available energy regime is a cautionary tale of our own civilization as we begin to exhaust the cheap, available fossil fuels that have kept our industrial society afloat.

“A major cause of the Roman Empire’s decline, after six centuries of world dominance was its replacement of stone aqueducts by lead pipes for the transport and supply of drinking water. Roman engineers, the best in the world, turned their fellow citizens into neurological cripples. Today our own ‘best and brightest,’ with the best of intentions, achieve the same end through childhood vaccination programmes yielding the modern scourges of hyperactivity, learning disabilities, autism, appetite disorders, and impulsive violence.”—Dr. Harris L. Coulter, PhD, “Vaccination, Social Violence, and Criminality: The Medical Assault on the American Brain”

Italy was densely forested at the beginning of Roman rule. By the end of the Roman Imperium, Italy and much of the Mediterranean territories had been stripped of forest cover. The timber was sold on the open market and the soil converted to crops and pastureland. The cleared soil was rich in minerals and nutrients and, at first, provided significant production yields. Unfortunately, the denudation of forest cover left the soil exposed to the elements. Wind blew across the barren landscapes, and water ran down from the mountaintops and slopes, taking the soil with them. Over-grazing of livestock resulted in further deterioration of the soil.

The continuing decline of soil fertility came just at the time when Imperial Rome began to rely on its agriculture to provide an energy substitute for its foreign conquests...

Depopulation of the countryside also had other repercussions. Abandoned land was no longer being stewarded. The result was even greater erosion and loss of soil fertility. Lowlands were hit particularly hard by the massive depopulation of the countryside. Wet fields were no longer drained in the early spring and therefore were left swampy. The spreading swampland became a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which caused a spread of malaria. The disease weakened an already dispirited and hungry population, further sapping the human energy reserves...deforested land, eroded soil, and impoverished and diseased human populations lay scattered across the empire. Europe would not recover for another 600 years.

The Great Roman Empire had collapsed. By the sixth century, the population of Rome, once numbering more than 1,000,000, had shrunk to less than 30,000 inhabitants. The city itself was reduced nearly to rubble, a stark reminder of how unforgiving the energy laws are.

The Hydrogen Economy, Jeremy Rifkin

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