No one really knows why the Mayan empire collapsed.
But one theory has to do with ecology and the natural environment.
The Yucatán peninsula, where the Mayans lived, was not suited to grow many crops. Mayans had to burn and clear forest in order to plant crops, only to find that the soil was quickly spent, and they needed to keep moving.
It’s thought that nearly all the forest that covers the Yucatán today was gone during the time of the Mayans.
The region wasn’t meant to support so many people. The land was abused, over-farmed and rendered useless.
Obviously they didn’t have the same amounts of technology and efficiency that we posses today, but there’s a broader lesson that still stands.
What’s the rate of use and what’s the rate of replenishment? If use outpaces replenishment, we’re in for trouble. The problems might not come for two, twenty or 300 years, but eventually we need to figure something out.
Many people, organizations and societies thrive in the short term. But is it sustainable? That is the biggest question to ask when doing anything important.