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The Recurring Dark Ages: Ecological Stress, Climate Changes, and System Transformation (World Ecological Degradation)

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0759104518
ISBN-10: 0759104514
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Editorial Reviews


Dr. Chew's long awaited sequel to World Ecological Degradation provides the reader with new insights on the contemporary environmental crisis by providing a broad, long-range perspective on the interactions between natural changes and cultural changes. Interdisciplinary in scope, rich in theory and data, The Recurring Dark Ages helps the reader understand globalization in historical perspective. (Bill Devall, author, Deep Ecology and Living Richly in an Age of Limits)

Sing Chew offers groundbreaking insights for anyone seeking help in understanding the uneven course of the history of human culture in the context of nature. By a fine analysis of the times often discounted in world histories, Sing Chew provides a masterful new way of seeing the import of the interaction of human societies and the forces of the natural world. (J Donald Hughes, University of Denver, and editor, The Face of the Earth)

Recurring Dark Ages takes ecological disasters based on systematic long-term overexploitation back to the beginnings of urban life and early industrialization in the Bronze Age. Sing Chew thus situates Dark Ages in a long-term historical perspective linked to the operation of an ancient world system. The book provides an original historical framework for understanding Dark Ages past and present. (Kristian Kristiansen, Goteborgs Universitet; coauthor with Thomas B. Larsson, The Rise of Bronze Age Society)

This could be a fascinating romp through world history; each chapter whizzes across space and time in lightening fashion....The strength of this approach is the way it synthesizes and presents so much information about the ingenuity of diverse communities and their efforts to produce and trade across large distances and on changing ecological terrains, and it does so with a novel and persuasive analytic frame. (Contemporary Sociology)

The world system has evolved and continues to do so. The question is what drives this evolutionary process. Sing Chew has developed a substantial argument built around intermittent and, hitherto, poorly understood Dark Ages. Chew shines an analytical light on the phases of deterioration that we usually ignore while favoring the periods of growth and expansion. Yet it is unlikely that you can have one without the other. (William Thompson, Indiana University, Bloomington, and past president of the International Studies Association)

About the Author

Sing C. Chew is research scientist in the Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, UFZ Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig-Halle, Leipzig, Germany; professor of sociology at Humboldt State University, Arcata, California; and founding editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Nature and Culture.

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Product Details

  • Series: World Ecological Degradation
  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press (December 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0759104514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0759104518
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,968,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I should probably have read the first book before reading this one, but…oh well. It's very interesting re: providing information about past civilizations/societies that ignored their environment at their peril and to their detriment. The author argues - correctly - that the natural world is the root basis of all civilizations, and thus societies that ignored the deterioration of their environment - from whatever cause or source - eventually collapsed.
Jared Diamond laid out this premise in his book "Collapse, and IMHO, argued the case better, as well as providing extremely in-depth background on each civilization he covered. That said, this book is not a mere repeat of Diamond's thesis, nor does the author examine the same societies. If you're looking for yet more proof of Diamond's thesis - or perhaps you don't necessarily need or want more proof, but would like information as to how things played out for societies that Diamond didn't cover - then you will enjoy this book.
The author provides quite a bit of data about each society he discusses (perhaps too much at times; I skipped over some of the charts and tabulations as I didn't feel it was necessary to review them, given that Mr. Chew explained it all in his words).
In short, if you're interested in learning what brought about the fall of various civilizations (Greek, Roman, etc, including spasms throughout the Middle Ages that were *not* related to the Black Death), you will enjoy this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any review should address at least two issues: (1) SHOULD one read this book; and (2) WOULD one enjoy the book. In this case, the answer to the first is "probably yes". To the second? An absolute "no". As a collection, compilation, and comparison of relevant data, the book offers a useful assemblage of facts and provides a framework for their interpretation, however, the author's style is a study in impenetrable pedantry and pomposity of phraseology which is so frustratingly abstruse and dry that one cannot help oneself (repeatedly) imagining Dr. Chew at his lectern solemnly intoning "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?"

The central thesis - or, perhaps, more accurately, theses, since there are two - is that so-called "Dark Ages" (i.e., periods of socio-cultural/economic/intellectual retrenchment) are a natural and recurring event in human history and that one of, if not the prime mover in those recurrent "Dark Ages" is "ecological stress" (secondary to over-exploitation and/or to environmental change). It is a measure of Dr. Chew's writing that it takes him over 4 pages to lay out that summation (and, in truth, there is nothing even remotely approaching a clear explication of it until the middle of pg. 11). One wishes that Dr. Chew, in between his visits to the geo-sciences department, had taken at least a few minutes to chat with someone in the university's "creative writing" section.

Let's put that in clear English: What we are talking about is what the "prepping community" calls "TEOTWAWKI".
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