sing chew globalization and ecological crisis

sing chew globalization and ecological crisis - Global...

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Unformatted text preview: Global Society, Vol. 16, No. 4, 2002 Globalisation, Ecological Crisis, and Dark Ages 1 SING C. CHEW Explanations of long-term global transformations to date have been based overwhelmingly on socio-economic and political factors. As we increasingly question whether there are physical and environmental limits that would affect the reproduction of the world system, socio-economic and political factors might not necessarily be suf cient to account for long-term global transformations. What needs to be added to the overall explanation of long-term social change is the inclusion of ecological and climatological changes as important dimensions in our understanding of global transformations. Given these parameters, global transformations are outcomes not only of political and economic interactions, but are also consequences of the relationship between society (culture) and nature, and climatological changes. Over world history, the relationship between culture and nature has been punctuated with periods of ecological degradation and crisis. 2 Given these outcomes, the history of human civilisations can therefore also be described as the ``history of ecological degradation and crisis. 3 It is the latter moment, that of ecological crisis commonly known to historians as the Dark Ages, that is of interest to us. For during these periods of Dark Ages or ecological crisis, we nd political-economic and ecological patterns and trajectories that are very different from crisis-free periods. In this regard, Dark Ages are times exhibiting ecological degradation, climatic changes, reorganisation of socio-economic and political structures, and hegemonic challenges. On this basis, Dark Ages offer us a window into moments of system crisis and transformations. Given the current concern on the ongoing global environmental crisis having an impact on global transformations, our consideration of patterns of the past (such as Dark Ages) can provide a fuller understanding of likely possible futures. This paper is an attempt to examine past trends and tendencies during Dark Ages for insights on the conditions that can give rise to system crisis and 1. This is a revised version of a paper presented to the Plenary Panel, Conference on Globalization and the Environment: Prospects and Perils, American Sociological Association Annual Meetings, 17 August 2001, Anaheim, CA, USA. 2. Sing C. Chew, World Ecological Degradation: Accumulation, Urbanization, and Deforestation (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press/Rowman & Little eld, 2001). 3. Sing C. Chew, ``Accumulation, Deforestation, and World Ecological Degradation 2500 BC to AD 1990, in Advances in Human Ecology , Vol. 6 (Westport, CT: JAI Press, 1997); Sing C. Chew ``Ecological Relations and the Decline of Civilization s in the Bronze Age World System: Mesopotamia and Harappa 2500 BC 1700 BC, in W. Goldfrank et al ., Ecology and the World System (Greenwich, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999); Chew, World Ecological Degradation...
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