Friday, March 21, 2014

According to NSA, it's he end of the world as we know it.

Sunday the Guardian reported

new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
The study is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model about which I have some doubt: there are so many different "human natures," perhaps seven billion f them; and I don't know a scientific way of choosing one among them.  The Daily Kos has a link to the HANDY study which would not open for me. Perhaps the model itself prescribes a meaningful definition.

The HANDY model selects a number of advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations which were both fragile and impermanent and reasons by analogy (I think) to our own industrial civilization, finding may congruences.  The study focuses on two key solutions if our civilization is to avoid collapse:  the need

to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.

Whether or no the study is empirically sound, its proposed solutions are intuitively sound.

Will we grapple with them?  The Daily Kos' conclusion:

Nice to know that there is a solution.  Simple it is not.  The missing part here is how to get it done and in time.
I think we could deal with income inequality if we had a wold government that could impose a graduated tax, and I don' see that ever happening, short of a world-wide collapse.


The study focuses on the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires.

I had not heard of the Mauryan and Gupta Empires and was surprised at the collapse of the Han, for the Han are ow fully in control of China, the greatest competitor of the US.

so I looked them up.  Here's what I found.  From Wikipedia [footnotes omitted]

The Mauryan Empire

The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive Iron Age historical power in ancient India, ruled by the Mauryan dynasty from 322 to 185 BCE. Originating from the kingdom of Magadha in the Indo-Gangetic plains (modern Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh) in the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, the empire had its capital city at Pataliputra (modern Patna).[1][2] The Empire was founded in 322 BCE by Chandragupta Maurya, who had overthrown the Nanda Dynasty and rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and western India, taking advantage of the disruptions of local powers in the wake of the withdrawal westward by Alexander the Great's Greek armies. By 320 BCE the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating and conquering the satraps left by Alexander.[3]The Maurya Empire was one of the world's largest empires in its time, and the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it conquered beyond modern Pakistan, annexing Khorasan, Balochistan, south eastern parts of Iran and much of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat[3] and Kandahar provinces. The Empire was expanded into India's central and southern regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded a small portion of unexplored tribal and forested regions near Kalinga (modern Odisha), until it was conquered by Ashoka. Its decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, and it dissolved in 185 BCE with the foundation of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.
Under Chandragupta, the Mauryan Empire conquered the trans-Indus region, which was under Macedonian rule. Chandragupta then defeated the invasion led by Seleucus I, a Greek general from Alexander's army. Under Chandragupta and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India thanks to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security.
After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced half a century of peace and security under Ashoka. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences and of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Mediterranean Europe.[3]The population of the empire has been estimated to be about 50 - 60 million making the Mauryan Empire one of the most populous empires of all time.[4][5]Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW). The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath has been made the national emblem of India.

The Gupta Empire

The Gupta Empire (Sanskrit: गुप्त साम्राज्य, Gupta Sāmrājya) was an ancient Indian empire, founded by Maharaja Sri Gupta, which existed from approximately 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent.[1] The peace and prosperity created under the leadership of the Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors.[2] This period is called the Golden Age of India[3] and was marked by extensive inventions and discoveries in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy that crystallized the elements of what is generally known as Hindu culture.[4] Chandra Gupta I, Samudra Gupta the Great, and Chandra Gupta II the Great were the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty.[5] The 4th century CE Sanskrit poet Kalidasa credits Guptas with having conquered about twenty one kingdoms, both in and outside India, including the kingdoms of Parasikas (Persians), the Hunas, the Kambojas, tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys, the Kinnaras, Kiratas etc.[6]The high points of this cultural creativity are magnificent architecture, sculptures and paintings.[7] The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields.[8][9] Science and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era.[10] Strong trade ties also made the region an important cultural center and set the region up as a base that would influence nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.[11] The earliest available Indian epics are also thought to have been written around this period.
The empire gradually declined because of many factors such as substantial loss of territory and imperial authority caused by their own erstwhile feudatories and the invasion by the Huna peoples from Central Asia.[12] After the collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms. A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire. These Guptas were ultimately ousted by Vardhana ruler Harsha Vardhana, who established an empire in the first half of the 7th century.

 The Han Empire

The Han dynasty (also known as the Han Dynasty, simplified Chinese: 汉朝; traditional Chinese: 漢朝; pinyin: Hàn Cháo; Wade–Giles: Han Ch'ao; IPA: [xân tʂʰɑ̌ʊ̯], 206 BC – 220 AD) was an imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC) and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms (220–280 AD). It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty (9–23 AD) of the former regent Wang Mang. This interregnum separates the Han into two periods: the Western Han (206 BC – 9 AD) and Eastern Han (25–220 AD). Spanning over four centuries, the period of the Han Dynasty is considered a golden age in Chinese history.[3] To this day, China's majority ethnic group refers to itself as the "Han people" and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters".[4]The Han Empire was divided into areas directly controlled by the central government, known as commanderies, and a number of semi-autonomous kingdoms. These kingdoms gradually lost all vestiges of their independence, particularly following the Rebellion of the Seven States. The Xiongnu, a nomadic steppe confederation,[5] defeated the Han in 200 BC and forced the Han to submit as a de facto inferior partner, but continued their raids on the Han borders. Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BC) launched several military campaigns against them. The ultimate Han victory in these wars eventually forced the Xiongnu to accept vassal status as Han tributaries. These campaigns expanded Han sovereignty into the Tarim Basin of Central Asia, divided the Xiongnu into two separate confederations, and helped establish the vast trade network known as the Silk Road, which reached as far as the Mediterranean world. The territories north of Han's borders were quickly overrun by the nomadic Xianbei confederation. Emperor Wu also launched successful military expeditions in the south, annexing Nanyue in 111 BC and Dian in 109 BC, and in the Korean Peninsula where the Xuantu and Lelang Commanderies were established in 108 BC.
After 92 AD, the palace eunuchs increasingly involved themselves in court politics, engaging in violent power struggles between the various consort clans of the empresses and empress dowagers, causing the Han's ultimate downfall. Imperial authority was also seriously challenged by large Daoist religious societies which instigated the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion. Following the death of Emperor Ling (r. 168–189 AD), the palace eunuchs suffered wholesale massacre by military officers, allowing members of the aristocracy and military governors to become warlords and divide the empire. When Cao Pi, King of Wei, usurped the throne from Emperor Xian, the Han Dynasty ceased to exist.
The Han Dynasty was an age of economic prosperity and saw a significant growth of the money economy first established during the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1050–256 BC). The coinage issued by the central government mint in 119 BC remained the standard coinage of China until the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD). To pay for its military campaigns and the settlement of newly conquered frontier territories, the government nationalized the private salt and iron industries in 117 BC. These government monopolies were repealed during the Eastern Han period, and the lost revenue was recouped through heavily taxing private entrepreneurs. The emperor was at the pinnacle of Han society. He presided over the Han government but shared power with both the nobility and appointed ministers who came largely from the scholarly gentry class. From the reign of Emperor Wu onward, the Chinese court officially sponsored Confucianism in education and court politics, synthesized with the cosmology of later scholars such as Dong Zhongshu. This policy endured until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 AD. Science and technology during the Han period saw significant advances, including papermaking, the nautical steering rudder, the use of negative numbers in mathematics, the raised-relief map, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere for astronomy, and a seismometer employing an inverted pendulum.

Images from the web:

The Maurya Empire

The Gupta Empire

The Han Dynasty

Poetry of Emperor Wu's reign:
A Chinese calligraphy of the poem

The Sun Rises and Sets
Would there be an end to sunrise and sunset?
The times of nature and the lie-span of people are different.
That is why spring is not my spring,
Summer is not my summer,
Autumn is not my autumn,
Winter is not my winter. 
The floating life of people is being drained out slowly,
In the pond of four seas.
Isn’t it the same everywhere if we looked all over.
I know what would be my pleasure,
To ride on the six dragons  is my sole desire.
I would be greatly gratified,
If I could really drive the dragons in the upper atmosphere.
How come the yellow horses  haven’t come down,
They are not in sight anywhere!

This song was devoted to the Deity of Sun at suburb sacrificial ceremonies. Sima Xiangru, who rewrote the verse, knew he could not surpass Qu Yuan who wrote about the Deity of Sun in the 《Nine Songs》, he therefore wrote from the triangle of people’s worship of the Deity. In particular, Emperor Wu of Han himself believed that men can become celestial beings. “My only pleasure is to drive the six dragon in the sky” might be the Emperor’s own words. Some people say this poem is a perfect lyric with unique imagination and fantastic ideas. I think the poem provides much food for thought when it compared the short life-span of people to the infinite universe.

A handy timeline:

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