Historical Analogues

There are numerous studies of past social-ecological systems - especially from archaeology and anthropology. In these studies there is an emphasis on social collapse - as observed for the Maya civilization and the previous inhabitants of Easter Island and Greenland.  Increasingly, scientists apply a complexity framework to these studies so that they can draw out general levels of understanding that can be applied to other situations either in the past or modern world.  Studies show that societal collapse rarely has a single cause - multiple biophysical and socio-economic stressors are more likely.  Past examples of societal collapse can offer insight into generic human-environment interactions - like the fragility of highly complex and connected systems - providing evidence that agrees with modern ecological and complexity theories.  But past social-ecological systems are necessarily isolated in time from the modern conditions now seen at the same location.  They are often better analogues for the modern situation in a different location because boundary conditions have usually changed over time with new impacting variables, like technological advances.