The Ecological Transition: From Equilibrium to Disequilibrium
This chapter discusses the transition from two approaches: the first concerns material progress: the archeological record of the move toward more intensive use of natural resources and support of an increasing human population. The second approach concerns the problem of how equilibrium, achieved for a time, gives way to disequilibrium between resources and population. The modern approach to the material evolution of culture in southwest Asia begins with V. Gordon Childe's work in the 1930s and '40s on southwest Asia and Europe. If we look at the ecological transition from the standpoint of systemic functioning, we can reduce the complex and gradual changes of the historical process to two types: societies that find an equilibrium with Nature and those that do not. The first are adaptive systems that have stabilized their internal affairs and their technology; the second are those that allow for substantial change in these.