One of the important things we should do when trying to live sustainably, and work out the best path for the future, is learn from peoples and cultures who have come before. Often, humanity can be remarkably short sighted when looking forward. And we can also be very short sighted when looking back.
Many civilisations throughout history have risen and fallen. And by examining what went wrong for some of them, we can see how we might be able to prevent our own decline.
One major lesson is that over-consumption of natural resources does not end well. When we continue to consume without giving back, it is a shortcut to disaster. (The Ancient Mayans are just one example.) The more we learn about history, the more we see how often this was a primary contributing factor to societal collapse.
When we talk about learning from history, we often focus on the more recent past. But we often fail to look at the bigger picture – the patterns of change over deeper time.
Even when we are historically minded – we often have a distorted picture of the truth. Narratives form and over time, those narratives become the main story – eclipsing other matters that really should be remembered. These narratives can be distorted by racial prejudice, societal biases of all kinds, propaganda, politics… We have to look beyond these narratives to find a more nuanced picture of the past.
This is, of course, not always easy. But the fact remains that we need to truly examine where we have come from before we can determine where we are going.
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