Public: City: Measurement
The Decline of Civilisation Index   (+12, -1)  [vote for, against]
A definitive measure of the war against entropy.

Pictures of ancient South American cities buried beneath rampant jungle growth provide one of the most striking images of the impermanence of our puny, human civilisations and I was contemplating this the other day whilst waiting for a bus and noticing the increase in the number and size of the weeds that were growing up through the pavement and in the gutter.

I therefore propose a regular (annually if possible) survey conducted by someone with the money to pay for it, that tracks the progress of uncontrolled plant growth in our cities and towns in terms of surface area occupied; probably most efficiently carried out by either analysing satellite pictures or by sending small teams of people around a selection of cities and doing actual, real measuring (actually, some sort of voluntary survey along the lines of the annual bird survey that goes on in the UK might be a good idea too). The survey should be called the ‘Decline of Civilisation Index’ with the first survey conducted to establish the baseline figure with subsequent surveys expressing the percentage decline or increase of civilisation.

We all know that the evil plants will eventually win the war but at least this survey will be able to tell us if we are still managing to hold them to a fighting draw.
-- DrBob, Oct 19 2010

Chernobyl today http://villageofjoy...y-told-in-pictures/
idea reminds me of Sim City [po, Oct 19 2010]

Mass observation http://www.massobs.org.uk/index.htm
Everything you never thought to ask... [infidel, Oct 19 2010]

The onion beat you to it, [Dr] http://www.theonion...eached-this-f,2812/
[pertinax, Oct 19 2010]

Seemed apropriate. http://www.flickr.c...s/l/in/photostream/
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Oct 19 2010]

Overgrown, though not in the intended sense. http://maps.google....5,0.027251&t=k&z=15
If you look closely, you can see the encroaching vegetation. [mouseposture, Oct 19 2010]

Six Flags Park, New Orleans http://weburbanist....ew-orleans-69-pics/
The next candidate for jungly overgrowth perhaps? [DrBob, Oct 20 2010]

An ally in the war against plants? http://www.bbc.co.u...nvironment-11607299
See, the Elephants understand! [DrBob, Oct 26 2010]

Biomass Observation?
-- infidel, Oct 19 2010


Ah, someone else worried about the Impending Dandelion Apocalypse.
-- Loris, Oct 19 2010


Whatever next? A consumer watchdog to monitor the continuing decline in standards of <whatever>, called "It wasn't like that in the good ol' days"...
-- Jinbish, Oct 19 2010


//Pictures of ancient South American cities buried beneath rampant jungle growth provide one of the most striking images of the impermanence of our puny, human civilisations//

Well, technically the provide one of the most striking images of the impermanence of their puny, human civilisation.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Oct 19 2010


//Whatever next? //

[Marked-for-tagline]
-- Boomershine, Oct 19 2010


Thing is, this implicitly suggests that civilisation <> plant-growth ; wheras, it may be the case that lofty civilisations hitherto unbeknown to us might encourage plant-growth in as many places as possible as a means to encouraging some sort of symbiotic relationship with nature.

I know you refer to 'uncontrolled' plant-growth, so well-clipped topiary would probably not feature on the index - but maybe there's room for unkept hedgerows and other unmanaged land-use.

Personally, I'd quite like to see more plants around the place, controlled or otherwise, without it necessarily being a sign of impending destruction.
-- zen_tom, Oct 19 2010


In Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy uses vines instead of weeds.
-- ldischler, Oct 19 2010


Once you can't enforce the proper spelling of "civilization", what's the point, really
-- theircompetitor, Oct 19 2010


What’s that? A foreign brand name for some sort of cheap vodka?
-- Ian Tindale, Oct 19 2010


//Once you can't enforce the proper spelling of "civilization", what's the point, really//

Pnctn: Once you can't enforce the proper spelling of "civilization", what's the point, really?
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Oct 19 2010


sp: Civilisation

Jared Diamond makes a compelling case for the link between retention of forests and tolerance for plant life and the affluence of societies.

A case in point is Haiti, with only a few percent of its original vegetation left and one of the world's lowest standards of living. Across the border, the Dominican Republic has a very high standard of living and an aggressive program to retain the existing 90% or so of its original vegetation.

Are you a secret agent bent on the further economic sabotage of a once proud Britain, [DrBob]?
-- infidel, Oct 19 2010


[MB], I'm sure you meant: Once you can't enforce the proper spelling of "civilization," what's the point, really?
-- mouseposture, Oct 19 2010


I think not.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Oct 19 2010


Somehow, a war against entropy is only going to increase entropy.
-- csea, Oct 19 2010


And while we're at it, the place is getting dirtier so we need to get tough on grime and tough on the causes of grime.
-- bigsleep, Oct 19 2010


The problem is, the weeds are a part of the system. The law of unintended consequences always wins, eventually. This is why revolutions are necessary. Even the best-created national constitution eventually becomes distorted through the process of time.

Jared Diamond needs to read 'Guns, Germs, and Steel.' Some original vegetation has more nutritional value than others, enabling other economic activities other than hunting and gathering or primitive agriculture.
-- RayfordSteele, Oct 19 2010


Well, spelling errors aside (which I shan't correct and will claim that I was being subtley ironic; even though we all know that that's a lie and I dare you to prove it!), the premise of the idea wasn't so much that civilization <> plant growth because obviously that's not true. Without plants we would all die out fairly rapidly. It was more along the lines that a significant increase of uncontrolled plant growth in our cities is indicative of a lack of maintenance in the basic infrastructure and therefore of its decline.

To address Max's point about 'their decline', you could do this as either a local thing, or as a global decline of the human race type thing. Either would give me plenty to moan about. "See, see, I told you that we were all doomed! But oh no, you wouldn't listen to me. Nobody ever listens to me! We never had these problems when Victoria was Queen..." etc, etc.
-- DrBob, Oct 20 2010


//I think not.//

[Marked-for-tagline].
-- Boomershine, Oct 20 2010


//[Marked-for-tagline]//
[Marked-for-tagline]
-- Voice, Oct 22 2010


It's comforting to think that plants will go right on being plants, as we become extinct. We haven't been the best species for the planet, I suspect.
-- infidel, Oct 23 2010


I can’t think of anything more tedious than having to thoroughly read a book one has written, so my sympathies to Jared Diamond. I have trouble re- reading my manuscript on XSL-FO in the whimsical fancy that I might one day update it to refer to XSL- FO 1.1 — it’s so incredibly boring.
-- Ian Tindale, Oct 23 2010


//We haven't been the best species for the planet, I suspect.//

There's the understatement of this thread...unless all our mucking around, whilst wiping us out, provides the perfect environment for another species which might be grateful, like we should be to those primitive organisms that provided us with oxygen. You just never know...
-- Boomershine, Oct 23 2010


Some rats and pigeons stopped in to say "thank you". Also, I think the cockroaches and clothes moths have signed the visitors' book. Some silverfish have started eating it.
-- pertinax, Oct 26 2010


I like the idea. I also like that it will probably spawn thoughts about the value of wild growth within our living spaces.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could have self-trimming ecosystems in our developed areas?
-- Bootbuckles, Oct 27 2010


Maybe we can learn to get some nutritional value out of kudzu...
-- RayfordSteele, Oct 27 2010


//Wouldn't it be nice if we could have self-trimming ecosystems in our developed areas?//

Are we still talking about plants here, Bootbuckles, or have you moved on to the topic of personal hygiene?
-- DrBob, Nov 05 2010


//Somehow, a war against entropy is only going to increase entropy//

Ah, but entropy can be decreased locally, even if at the expense of increasing it somewhere else. This was Bush and Cheney's logic when they started their wars on the other side of the planet.
-- ldischler, Nov 05 2010


[ldischler] Poor President Bush. Now I understand how a manned mission to Mars fit in with his other priorities. NASA failed him, and he had to settle for Iraq & Afghanistan. Not far enough away. If only he'd been able to start a war on Mars! What a visionary.
-- mouseposture, Nov 05 2010


First of all, as everyone knows, the Martians started it.
-- theircompetitor, Nov 05 2010


//First of all, as everyone knows, the Martians started it.// Grossly unfair. It was preemptive self defense. Everybody knows the Terrans were developing WMDs, and they were bound to supply one to those Venusian terrorists who perpetrated the Syrtis Major attacks.
-- mouseposture, Nov 05 2010



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