Follow by Email

StatCounter

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Plague and breaking points



The world has seen some horrific plagues in the past. Most of us are familiar with the Black Death of 14 Century Europe. It was also in Asia and parts of Africa, but western history is Eurocentric. Records of the plague are pretty good, including a lot of first person sources. It's estimated that between 30 – 50 percent of the population died.

There were a number of chaotic years when everything pretty much fell apart: government, religion, and society in general. Amazingly, after the plague had passed the survivors got back on their feet quickly. There were a lot of changes in society. How could there not be? However, in short order there was a functioning society. People did not revert to a hunter/gatherer existence.

Contrast that to the situation in the New World. There are estimates that up to 90 percent of the population of North and South American was decimated by disease. Complex societies did not survive intact. There weren't enough people left to keep them running. Life got a whole lot simpler.

So we know that civilization can probably sustain 50 percent losses without totally falling apart. 90 percent is too much. Somewhere between 50 and 90 percent is the breaking point. It's probably not a hard and fast number as there are a lot of variables. I'm just guessing, but I bet it's a fairly narrow range.

The plague years in the Old World were well documented. In the Americas the record is sparse and mostly from the viewpoint of the invaders. Whole civilizations vanished with barely a trace.

One can't but help wonder how resilient our own civilization would be to dramatic population loss.

-Sixbears

14 comments:

  1. Or what the percentage loss may be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet humans will survive. Not too sure about our technological civilization.

      Delete
  2. I guess it depends on who survives - the builders or the destroyers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It could be very uneven -one way or the other.

      Delete
  3. Given our dependence on the grid, I'm not sure how far we would fall if half our population were to check out in the space of a month. Half the farmers and ranchers growing the food, with half the amount of truck drivers / delivery persons doing their job. Population centers would have to shrink fast - a hydroelectric dam (I don't think) can store up electricity for future use. Its used up or ???.

    Gives someone a lot to think about.

    When I was much younger, I asked Dad why Jonas' Salk polio vaccine was such a miracle. He looked at me for a few moments, then said 'Boy, you don't know what it was like. You could stand at a street corner and looking the four directions, count a polio victim within a street block in each direction. Your Christmas school vacation often had the news that a someone you knew had died of polio during the break.' And other stuff like that.

    Ebola in the U.S. - a Slate Wiper by any other name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The grid doesn't store power as rule.

      Polio wasn't all that long ago. Our medical system is better now, but not up to the task of a widespread plague. That's why it's so important to get it stamped out when it's in the low numbers.

      Delete
  4. Then given the fact that it is a medical system reserved for the privileged. Those which fall between the cracks are a huge population of potential carriers....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean people like us? It's getting pretty crowded in this crack.

      Delete
  5. trains, planes, and buses; oh add suv's

    crowded malls, stores, and other social areas

    how fast it can spread.... be anybody's best guess

    bad time for your allergies to show up durring a plauge

    people might just get the wrong ideas about you then

    and people are well connected to all sorts of media

    stupid rumors and myths can kill you too

    but is this a civiliuzation?????

    Wildflower

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe civilization is not all that its cracked up to be.

      Delete
  6. We got a case of Ebola here in Texas. Will it spread? That is what worries a lot of people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the million dollar question, isn't it? Lets see how well they round up all those contacted.

      Delete
  7. Doesn't seem to take much for the bad stuff to get started. Here's hoping we can keep the lid on it before it gets too much worse!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If governments get their act together and move swiftly disease can be contained. Unfortunately they don't seem very good at doing things in a timely manner. This could have been dealt with much easier back when it was thought to be an African problem instead of a humanity problem.

      Delete