Collapse of Civilizations

Kuang Yu Chen (Chemistry and Chemical Biology)

Throughout history, civilizations prospered and collapsed: Minoan, Mayan, Angkor, and Papanui all suddenly collapsed at their peak, either due to a natural disaster of biblical scale or man-made disasters.  In this global, digital, and big-data era, we are facing challenges of unprecedented scale: climate change, water supply, healthcare, environmental sustainability, and waste management, to name a few.  If not managed well, these problems can turn into disasters capable of destroying modern civilization. This seminar will focus first on the past, asking what lessons can be learned by studying the collapse of ancient civilizations and how we can steer clear of the same fate.  We will then examine urgent global issues that could lead to a similar collapse, including climate change, groundwater contamination, GPGP (great pacific garbage patch), deforestation, WEEE (waste of electronics and electric equipment), and chemical waste. We will look at examples from China, Australia, and Hispaniola to illustrate the perils of an environmental disaster and its impact on the survival of global civilization.

Course Number: 
01:090:101 section 87 index 15078