Scott on the Fragility of Early States

"Extrinsic causes -- say, drought or climate change... -- may in fact be more important overall in state collapse, but intrinsic causes tell us more about the self-limiting aspects of early states. To this end, I speculate on three fault lines that are by-products of state formation itself. The first are the disease effects of the unprecedented concentrations of crops, people, and livestock together with their attendant parasites and pathogens... More insidious are two ecological effects of urbanism and intensive irrigated agriculture. The former resulted in steady deforestation of the upstream watershed of riverine states and subsequent siltation and floods. The latter resulted in well-documented salinization of the soil, lower yields, and eventual abandonment of arable land." (Against the Grain, p. 31)


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