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View Full Version : Crippling Thought of the Evening 2



wheelchairman
12-18-2009, 02:32 PM
Today I was reading an article about the various efforts by UNESCO (I believe) to preserve Culturally Relevant Historical Sites around the world, particularly from Earthquake proofing. Fairly interesting but one point stuck out at me. Some of these sites were over 5000 years old.

While of course I see nothing wrong with preserving these buildings, in fact I even love to visit and learn about them given the opportunity. And newer buildings too (and by newer I mean the buildings in the Copenhagen area that are only '400' years old.)

And I start thinking to myself, isn't it a success in and of itself that these buildings have lasted 5000 years. This is a success. An amazing one at that. A success despite what is likely centuries of neglect or even ignorance of their existence. Despite Earthquakes, and erosion and regular human tear and wear (especially through tourism, which will likely only increase).

So while I would never claim that we shouldn't try to preserve these structures, I believe our priorities are skewed. Buildings, ancient and beautiful, will inevitably collapse and be forgotten. All species die at some point, and if we're collectively lucky, some of us will be preserved in fossilized form.

Are we wrong to try and preserve these buildings? Absolutely not, but put into perspective it's luck and circumstance that has led to their continued existence. Are these buildings decaying at an exponential rate? Yes they are, and there's nothing wrong with that. The issue is the inability to accept the inevitable, and take it in stride. Certainly of course this has been more thoroughly discussed in Heinlein's Stranger From a Strange Land (a great work of classic science fiction, check your local library. Unfortunately a lot of his stuff is hit and miss, do not under any circumstance read Starship Troopers, the movie is significantly better.)

And while this post is already ridiculously long this does tie in with another factor I've been thinking about recently.

Everyone alive and posting on this board (not to mention everyone on Earth) is the product of survival at a catastrophically high rate. We talk on an academic level all the time of the infant mortality rate of medieval times, or of nomadic peoples, but we never relate this to our ancestors. In all likelihood your ancestors are the survivors of the black plague, that killed off the majority of Europe in its heyday. Before that they survived countless wars, raids, feuds, diseases, famines, droughts, floods and migration. They survived the huge wars of the romantic period, they survived two world wars, etc. You are the descendent of people who by all odds today, shouldn't even have survived.

So act like you deserve it for once. :p

p.s. This was originally going to be about mankinds inability to set things into perspective, but I got sidetracked because Tizz and her Dad are watching Popstars and I am having a hard time concentrating, perhaps that will come in a later thought.

Sidewinder
12-18-2009, 03:29 PM
Well, about the first point on the buildings: Obviously, the earth shifts. Some buildings may be moving into geographical territories where tectonic activity is more frequent than it had been for most of their history. While that still boils down to 'luck' or 'circumstance,' it is an idea that could hypothetically be quantified.



The second point about the Black Plague is a good one. Going a step further, take into consideration the time frame. There was a massive intercultural expansion occurring, which meant a level of economic prosperity almost unrivaled up to that point. This, of course, means lots and lots of babies. There was bound to be an overcrowding issue sooner rather than later, so I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't be some sort of epidemic, biological or otherwise, which led to the thinning of the population. I mean this reinforces your point about the inevitable, but I don't like the way that some people consider the Black Plague as this monstrous point in history which should never have occurred. Like you said, it was bound to happen, and it's silly to believe it was a one time thing.

wheelchairman
12-18-2009, 05:54 PM
As far as I understand, the tectonic plates only move a few inches a year*, a period of 5000 years still only moves these buildings half a mile. I really don't think that is the issue so much. The issue would be in the smaller less noticeable Earthquakes I think, as in many cases they are more frequent, also a lot of the oldest structures are built directly adjacent or are apart of cliff faces/mountain sides etc. Making the risk of Earthquake much higher. However the cumulative amount of Earthquakes over 5000 years in some of these places only is a testament to the amazing durability of these buildings.

Anyways as far as mankind, I am not sure I entirely agree with what you say on intercultural exchange. Assumably yeah the plague rats came on ships from Mongolia (or well the rats came from Mongolia) which obviously would lend weight to what you say, however the black plague wasn't a singular occurence, it happened repeatedly over centuries. Certainly after the population density was also significantly decreased. To pinpoint any specific reason (such as increased trade) as to why it spread so rapidly and so 'deadly-ly' doesn't quite cut it for me. This was still an agarian society meaning that the population density was still rather low, perhaps higher than in previous times, but I find it rather bold to say significantly higher. (I have no idea though).

However it is rather impressive that the impressions of the black plague still hold weight today. 500 years later (roughly) we still talk about it, this is something that must've passed from generation to generation. It certainly makes a joke about the hysteria concerning avian and swine flu. I wish they'd stop.

*This is a fact that I learned when I liked dinosaurs, which means that I read this about 15 years ago or so. So it's not exact in my memory, and science probably knows more now.

Sidewinder
12-18-2009, 08:30 PM
The point I was making about intercultural exchange was that it was very new at that point, and thus economies were booming. It's a proven cycle in both economics and sociology that when the economy is good, people have more babies. My point was that I think that there will always some 'catastrophe' that takes a chunk out of the population whether from rats or otherwise. The whole theory about an environment only being able to sustain a certain amount of individuals of a species, etc.

Cock Joke
12-19-2009, 09:51 PM
CRIPPLING! Get it? 'Cuz he's a wheelchair man & he's crippled!

_Lost_
12-19-2009, 11:06 PM
The hysteria about the swine flu stems from the flu outbreak in like 1914 when hundreds of thousands of people died from it. They thought, at first, that it was going to be something like that. They figured it'd be our generation's plague. With the population density the way it is, all we need is some new strain of whatever to total the masses. The hysteria was certainly overplayed and such, but its finally dying down and I've still only known a couple of people to get it. Basically, we are just long overdue for some massive epidemic and that is making the health officials in charge of our safety a little jumpy. They thought AIDs was gonna be it, but then they figured out how its transmitted.

wheelchairman
12-20-2009, 05:21 AM
The point I was making about intercultural exchange was that it was very new at that point, and thus economies were booming. It's a proven cycle in both economics and sociology that when the economy is good, people have more babies. My point was that I think that there will always some 'catastrophe' that takes a chunk out of the population whether from rats or otherwise. The whole theory about an environment only being able to sustain a certain amount of individuals of a species, etc.
However I have to pick that apart again. Don't take the nitpicking personally, I just can't help it. For example, how would you measure a good economy in a feudal era? We have no statistics or barometers, would you then measure population growth? That's a little presumptuous. Anyways families were far larger in feudal times due to many things, high infant death rates, the need for extra working hands on whatever the family trade was, and the need for the parents to have at least one surviving child to take care of them by the time they got too old to work.

The proven sociological and economic birthrates during good times thing is only valid in industrial/post-industrial western nations.

As far as environmental sustainability of large populations, that essentially was Malthus' (I think that was his name and how it was spelled) theory, and the course of history has proven him wrong in that innovation has allowed us to exceed our supposed natural limitations.

CRIPPLING! Get it? 'Cuz he's a wheelchair man & he's crippled!
At least someone got it.

The hysteria about the swine flu stems from the flu outbreak in like 1914 when hundreds of thousands of people died from it. They thought, at first, that it was going to be something like that. They figured it'd be our generation's plague. With the population density the way it is, all we need is some new strain of whatever to total the masses. The hysteria was certainly overplayed and such, but its finally dying down and I've still only known a couple of people to get it. Basically, we are just long overdue for some massive epidemic and that is making the health officials in charge of our safety a little jumpy. They thought AIDs was gonna be it, but then they figured out how its transmitted.
It's not so much that we're due, insomuch as a virus with little information known about it is but with a potential death rate is news gold.

What is this population density thing people go on about, the western world's birth rate is declining and has been for at least a generation or two.

_Lost_
12-20-2009, 08:15 AM
Well it is declining, but especially with the way people are getting kicked out of their homes, more and more people are crowding in with other families in homes or apartments, by assumption putting them closer to the cities. For the same reason that bed bugs have reached epidemic proportions, people are sharing diseases as well. 20 or 30 years ago, most families would've had homes. Mom, dad, and the one or two children they have. Now you add grandchildren to that and you get whats more common these days. Or like with student housing. You've got dorms, but now you've also got large numbers of "student living" apartment buildings springing up in areas around campus. They've built like 5 around my school in the last 3 or 4 years. That gets more and more students away from home or away from normal apartments and in close proximity. It used to be that about 25% of students at my school lived on or right around campus. Now its more like 50%. That is just asking for trouble. They are doing the same thing around a lot of schools.

I'm not saying that there are more people when i refer to population density. More people are just cramming in close together out of necessity or convenience.

wheelchairman
12-20-2009, 08:38 AM
Be that as it may, America has one of the lower density populations in the westerrn world. Europe has been living crammed together for decades, yet its not really an issue at all. And compared with places like India or China its a joke to even pretend that there is a radically high population density. It might be more than 10 years ago, but that just doesn't say much.