We are woefully unprepared for a long run of bad luck.
Long-term cycles escape our notice because they play out over many years or even decades; few noticed the decreasing rainfall in the Mediterranean region in 150 A.D. but this gradual decline in rainfall slowly but surely reduced the grain harvests of the Roman Empire, which coupled with rising populations resulted in a reduced caloric intake for many people.
This weakened their immune systems in subtle ways, leaving them more vulnerable to the Antonine Plague of 165 AD.
The decline of temperatures in Northern Europe in the early 1300s led to “years without summer” and failed grain harvests which reduced the caloric intake of most people, leaving them weakened and more vulnerable to the Black Plague which swept Europe in 1347.
I’ve mentioned the book The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire a number of times as a source for understanding the impact of natural cycles on human civilization.
It’s important to note that the natural cycles and pandemics of 200 AD didn’t just cripple the Roman Empire; this same era saw the collapse of the mighty Parthian Empire of Persia, the kingdoms of India and the Han Dynasty in China.
In addition to natural cycles, there are human socio-economic cycles of debt and decay of civic values and the social contract: a proliferation of parasitic elites, a weakening of state finances and a decline in the purchasing power of wages/labor.
The rising dependence on debt and its eventual collapse is a cycle noted by Kondratieff and others, and Peter Turchin listed these three dynamics as the key drivers of decisive discord of the kind that brings down empires and nations.
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