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America and the Fall of the Roman EmpireJD Adams Salem-News.com
The Great Recession is more than an economic adjustment. History tells us that our present business model is no longer relevant or sustainable.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The publishing of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" in 1776 by the British historian Edward Gibbon marked the beginning of a scholarly fascination with the subject that continues to this day. Modern historians have added literally hundreds of new theories to explain the demise of one of the world's largest and most influential cultures.
Ancient Rome began as an agricultural community on the Italian Peninsula in the 10th century BC, and grew to become a republic and eventually an empire that circled all of the Mediterranean Sea at it's zenith in 117 AD. With it's extensive holdings throughout Europe, the Roman Empire found itself surrounded by enemies on all sides, requiring a large army and constant expansion to support itself.
For these reasons and many others that have been proposed, the Roman Empire experienced a slow decline that included several distinct phases, ending arguably in the year 476 when Romulus Augustas was deposed by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer. The division of The Empire into east and west, each with it's own culture and unique destiny, created a somewhat nebulous decline, sometimes viewed as a transformation because the Roman Empire absorbed various cultural influences.
The many facets and complexities of Rome's collapse in the face of relatively little physical evidence until recently has fueled endless speculation, but several significant theories have earned acceptance based on the available knowledge. The relatively advanced nature of the Roman culture made it a model for our modern society in many ways, and therefore considerable interest has been focused on the decline of Rome in an effort to gain perspective on the future of humankind.
Most, if not all, of the theories for Rome's decline have an eerie similarity to issues that one could read about in any recent newspaper or E-zine. These are America's problems as well, economic, environmental, and social, including political corruption, constant wars, heavy military spending, a failing economy, unemployment of the working class, a decline in ethics, rapid expansion of the empire, barbarian invasions, and natural disasters.
Many parallels to the plight of America should be drawn from this list, as our borders have been breached from all sides, and the middle class has been financially decimated while politicians cater to the wealthiest corporations. The economy is faltering from a perfect storm of global corporate greed, higher energy costs, and educational disparity. Like the Roman Empire, America has extended it's reach beyond the ability to support itself.
It's also ironic that the extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a heavy financial burden on America, yet we have failed to adequately support our troops in many ways, particularly with a lack of sufficiently armored vehicles, in such a manner that a decisive victory was possible.
The rise of terrorism is analogous to the barbarian invasions that brought down the Roman Empire. If history repeats itself, declining morale in the military will make America unable to defend itself against this threat.
To mitigate the impact of natural disasters, there are many possible considerations. Environmentalists must return to the unbiased scientific method to find answers, entailing constructive skepticism and reliance on uncorrupted data without preconceived agendas.
Robust margins of safety should be inherent in engineering and construction. For example, the Corps of Engineers should redesign the system of dikes around the Mississippi River, and revisit the historic tendency of the river to flood catastrophically.
In the present economic crisis, municipalities have little resources to survive emergencies.
The analysis of skeletal remains has also revealed that the Romans often suffered lead poisoning from the cooking and preparation of food in lead containers. The similarity to our polluted environment and chemical-tainted lifestyle is all too obvious.
More advanced theories have evolved that are compelling and ominous for technically advanced societies. Advanced technology usually leads to depletion of natural resources, and subsequent diminishing returns on the energy invested such that the society becomes unsustainable.
Energy sources become critical when the ratio of EROEI, the Energy returned On Energy Invested, drops below approximately 10:1. With the twilight of fossil fuel approaching, with it's EROEI of 100:1, this alone is a grave concern.
The Great Recession is more than an economic adjustment. History tells us that our present business model is no longer relevant or sustainable. Yes, there is much to learn from the Fall of the Roman Empire, lest we in America suffer the same fate.
J. D. Adams was born in Salem, Oregon, a descendant of Oregon Trail pioneer William Lysander Adams. As a wilderness explorer, photographer, and writer, he sustains a kinship with the spirit of the Oregon country. JD inhabits Oregon's Silicon Forest as an electronics professional with degrees in Electronics Engineering Technology and Microelectronics.
He maintains a Web presence with a signature presentation in genres including travel, history, and technology.
You can write to Jim Adams at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, visit Jim's Website: home.earthlink.net/~j1mcm0s/
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