The world is facing new environmental challenges that may trigger the collapse of some social-ecological systems (SES). More extreme weather events may be much more common in the decades to come due to climate change. Although we have an idea of what climatic events to expect in each region, we know less about how SES can cope with these challenges. We study The Peruvian Piura Basin, which has been exposed to harsh environmental events associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) for centuries. The Piura basin was home to the ancient Moche civilization, which collapsed due to a combination of factors, but strong El Niño events likely played a significant role. To analyze the resilience of The Piura Basin to flood events, we used as guidance the Robustness Framework and different propositions from prominent collapse theories to carry out a longitudinal study based on both primary and collected secondary data. We found that the Piura basin is very fragile based on almost all of the predictions of collapse theories (especially with respect to selfish elites, centralized governance, systems interconnection, anticipation capacity and sensitive dependence on resources), but the biggest strength is its growing stock of social capital. Inmore »
Large, low-density settlements of the tropical world disintegrated during the first and second millennia of the CE. This phenomenon, which occurred in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica, is strongly associated with climate variability and extensive landscape transformation. These profound social transformations in the tropical world have been popularized as “collapse,” yet archaeological evidence suggests a more complex and nuanced story characterized by persistence, adaptation, and resilience at the local and regional scales. The resulting tension between ideas of climate-driven collapse and evidence for diverse social responses challenges our understanding of long-term resilience and vulnerability to environmental change in the global tropics. Here, we compare the archetypal urban collapse of the Maya, in modern Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, during the 8th to 11th centuries CE, and the Khmer in modern Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam during the 14th to 15th centuries CE. We argue that the social response to environmental stress is spatially and temporally heterogenous, reflecting the generation of large-scale landesque capital surrounding the urban cores. Divergences between vulnerable urban elite and apparently resilient dispersed agricultural settlements sit uncomfortably with simplistic notions of social collapse and raise important questions for humanity as we move deeper into the Anthropocene.
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- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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- Article No. e2022211118
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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- National Science Foundation
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