Now that we’ve been living with the COVID-19 virus in the US for most of the year, perhaps it is time to start thinking about how this pandemic can be viewed in the long-term perspective of history and even prehistory. At the begin of this whole disaster, on March 23, I wrote about the far-reaching and life-upending potential of this problem.
We do not want anyone in June to think back to this post and say, “I wish I had taken this more seriously.”
In addition to the knock-on effects of preventing the spread of the disease, I also suggested that we are due for an economic downturn.
If we hunker down for the rest of 2020 (and even if we don’t), what might have been “just” a recession, might well turn into a full-on depression.
Why did I say these things back in March? Because I’ve been thinking, learning, and writing about the rise and fall of large-scale, complex societies for years. My background is in archaeology, and before running the Low Technology Institute, I wrote books. In this case, the most germane is Why Did Ancient Civilizations Fail? Some might accuse me of being the shepherd who called wolf or Casandra, but at the time I was warning of shutting down for all of 2020, the CDC reported less than 16,000 total cases (today we have almost 48,000 new cases daily). Also at that time the CDC recommended staying home only if you were symptomatic and not wearing face masks. I note these facts because March seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
With that in mind, I’ll be publishing reworked sections from my 2016 book, Why Did Ancient Civilizations Fail?, updated for today, with a special emphasis on health and COVID, but also discussing other social problems we face.