Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed was a book that changed me and encouraged me to visit Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The book changed me and the way I saw the world.
http://www.dkv.columbia.edu/video/ei/jared_diamond.html This video describes the book,
Diamond lists eight factors which have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:
Deforestation and habitat destruction
Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
Water management problems
Effects of introduced species on native species
Human population growth
Increased per-capita impact of people
Further he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:
Human-caused climate change
Buildup of toxic chemicals in the environment
Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity
There is no satisfaction in knowing that you saw these events coming, but when the WSJ and Network News suggests hoarding food, you the know the facts of reality are upon us.
But I actually read the book and know that Diamond is an optomist, he saw the opportunity of media to educate as a tool to combat these challenges, instead the media pimps fear instead of advocating planting a fruit tree in the yard as a "gesture" of hope. The media ignores the simple economics of a long commute and the base price of a KIA Rio, but instead pimps ethanol.
If the current circumstances are a "rough patch" then let it be the warning that we as a society ignored in the 70's.
As Americans hoard food, keep in mind that that act contributes to hunger and an increasingly unstable world.
Can these events be avoided that Diamond illustrates? Probably not, but they can be managed a whole hell of a lot better than we have done so to date.
I think that a mix of pragmatism and hard-nosed national security considerations need to be evaluated and I feel one of the most qualified people in this area is James Woolsey.
But make no mistake about this, reading the book collapse now was not as illuminating as watching the last two years unfold.
We need a better sort of common sense management, we need to be tough, we also need to acknowledge that we cannot feed an increasing population indefinetly.
I recall another moment that changed me, I was looking at a satellite or space shuttle photo of the ganges river from space before and after a religous holiday. I mentioned that the orange color of the area looked like mold on an orange as millions congregated on that area. A person responded, that does not look like mold it appears to me to be poor management.
Irrespective of ones perspective I'm still the optomist, a true believer of a better tormorrow, an optomist who planted fruit trees, got a honda, and will downsize the pickup for something with a smaller footprint.
Saying: I told you so is no consolation, no victory, nothing but an acknowledgement of the challenges that lie ahead and the failures that we as a society contributed to.