Jared Diamond’s recent book Collapse makes a convincing case that multiple civilizations have collapsed because they exploited and mismanaged resources, then when outside forces turned against the culture or the climate changed, their entire way of life disintegrated. Examples include the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Island, and Viking settlements, all of which predate capitalism. They generally had a ruling class that kept most everything for themselves, something which exacerbated the collapse when it finally came because they weren’t paying attention to the environmental degradation they’d caused until it was too late.
For example, Easter Island collapsed in part because they cut down all the trees to use for themselves and finally had no more large trees with which to make seagoing canoes. Many of the trees were used to move the huge stone monuments that the different tribes built to compete with each other and to glorify their ruling class.
These examples were localized. Now the environmental damage is planet-wide and the a short-sighted ruling class exploiting resources for personal gain is certainly a factor here.
So go read Climate and Capitalism, a new blog, They say “EcoSocialism or Barbarism: There is no third way.” Really folks, if we want to stop global warming, new economic systems are needed.