Did any pre-industrial societies collapse because they were not ecologically sustainable?



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    Yes, probably. The best-known example is that of Easter Island in the Pacific, which was once lushly forested but where extensive deforestation began at some point, possibly in antiquity. Author and UCLA geography professor Jared Diamond argued compellingly in his 2005 book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed that the Easter Island society, isolated from contact with most other peoples, collapsed solely due to environmental depletion. Diamond also argued that the Mayans of central Mexico, the Anasazi of the American Southwest and the Polynesians of Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific also collapsed due to environmental factors, combined with some external pressures as well. Diamond’s conclusions are not undisputed. Some claim that the Easter Island populations were decimated by diseases and animals (rats) introduced by European contact in the 19th century, while others dispute the reputed causes of other collapses such as the Mayans. Nevertheless, it seems clear that in all of these cases, whether a loss of ecological sustainability was the sole cause of any of these societal collapses, environmental factors certainly played a large role in them.

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