I found this to be an interesting paper with many worthwhile observations.
I also found the "climate change" white-wash to be a little bit distracting but I can accept the fact that one must bend to the demands of the primary audience for your papers or they will not get published and you will become irrelevant as an academic.
Quoted material is highlighted in blue. My comments have a white background.
Long recognized as a distinct cultural region, prehispanic Mesoamerica was the setting for one of the world’s original urbanization episodes despite the impediments to communication and resource extraction due to the lack of beasts of burden and wheeled transport, and the limited and relatively late use of metal implements. Our knowledge of prehispanic urbanism in Mesoamerica has been significantly enhanced over the past two decades due to significant advances in excavating, analyzing, and contextualizing archaeological materials. We now understand that Mesoamerican urbanism was as much a story about resilience and adaptation to environmental change as it was about collapse.
The text that is underlined caught my eye because that is a situation we would encounter in the event of widespread social collapse.
Urban social organizations vary and are adaptable to environmental change. Worldwide urbanization has been occurring for the past 7,000 y. In this span, individual settlements have come and gone, and some once-flourishing urban systems have vanished. Many other cities and urban systems have lasted for
hundreds thousands of years. To achieve such endurance, problems had to be recognized, solutions devised, collective action coordinated, institutions, norms, and beliefs adjusted, new technologies deployed, and previous ways of doing things modified or abandoned
|Mayan cities had enormous longevity and were not tiny. An impressive accomplishment for a human-powered universe|
Mesoamerican urbanism often appears in collapse narratives and represents, by extension, a source of negative lessons. Yet,when seen as a history of longevity, adaptation, collapse, and reconfiguration, Mesoamerican urbanism can inform contemporary discussions of urban sustainability. The sudden, by historical standards, diminution, and in some cases outright disappearance, of prominent urban centers was indeed a feature of Maya history. However, the collapse was not a sudden unitary phenomenon; it took place over almost 200 y and Maya peoples continued to build new cities in other locations. While the causes of the Classic
lowland Maya collapse remain a subject of coalescing debate, sizeable changes in the populations of many cities occurred. These changes in population have largely blinded scholars to the remarkable successes of lowland Maya cities that persisted, adapted, and flourished for many centuries and were then replaced by smaller cities that subsequently arose and flourished. It has been argued that the abandonment of previously established equitable and sustainable practices was a factor in this collapse. It is working. Lets break it.
We would argue that any collapse seen in the past archaeological record was in part the result of vulnerability due to the removal or rejection of previously established risk reduction practices in antiquity. Sounds like what many conservatives say about current events like "justice reform".
When considering how Mesoamerican urbanism was affected by and responded to environmental change which could include resource depletion, it is helpful to have working definitions of the related concepts of risk, adaptation, and resilience...We adopt the definitions used by the IPCC(4, 30) in which a sustainability perspective sees risk, adaptation, and resilience as inherent attributes of human-environmental systems. Risk is defined as the potential for adverse consequences...for human or ecological systems. Adaptation in human societies is defined here as the process of adjustment to changes in the natural (or physical) and social environment and their effects, to moderate harm or exploit opportunities. Resilience is defined as the capacity of social, economic, and environmental systems to cope with a hazardous event, trend, or disturbance, while responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity, and structure, as well as the capacity for adaptation, learning, and transformation.
...variation in urban form among highland and lowland Mesoamerican cities provided a multitude of different adaptations. While some urban dwellers incorporated agriculture, silviculture, and orchard gardens within the city itself, others primarily practiced agriculture outside city boundaries; others relied on imported agricultural goods from elsewhere. Differences are also seen in access to potable water with some cities relying on more centralized control of reservoirs than others during the dry season of the tropics. The variability of ancient Mesoamerican cities and their incorporation into continent wide networks provided mechanisms that allowed the inhabitants of these cities to adapt to environmental risks through both exchange and migration. The way I read this is that every neighborhood that survived long enough to be studied was formed through a series of experiments that developed custom-fit solutions for each region's unique profile of stressors.
While I am a dyed-in-the-wool country-mouse, I realize that factors that make urban areas less livable will result in more people "pressuring" my area of operation.
To keep rural areas "rural" comes at a cost of maintaining the social and economic order of urban areas.
While there is similarity and variation among these cities, we note that their governance systems and built infrastructure were among their more successful adaptations to forces of external change. At their peaks, most Mesoamerican cities were prosperous and sustainable...Governance, however, was fickle and was
subject to shift between more collective and more autocratic systems over the course of history. Also particularly striking in terms of the abandonments of Mesoamerican cities–and opposed to earlier understandings- is that most of their collapses are associated with a rejection of these successful adaptations for strategies more focused on autocracy and inequality
This is a troubling passage because both sides of the political spectrum will see it as a vindication of their predispositions. The left will point at the right as autocratic and wealth-hording...and the right will reciprocate by pointing to the weaponization of various governmental agencies. What both can agree upon is that the "fickleness" of the system appears to be increasing. Instead of moderate swings between right-and-left the oscillations have become more pronounced and there is little overlap in policies.
Another reason that it is troublesome is that "collective" is usually associated with a form of property ownership rather than governance. The typical terms for collective governance are "representative", "democratic" or "elected representatives". Economic systems with a high degree of collective ownership quickly devolved to systems of autocratic governance so the choice of words by the authors is needlessly ambiguous and given the lack of records may be speculative.