This is a story about, at once, the beginning and ending of civilization. It is the dawn of time. Dawn finds three characters:
Fred and Sam are friends. Ralph does not know about the existence of Fred and Sam.
Their entire economy is based on the harvesting of trees. Trees provide everything - food, clothing and shelter. Trees are harvested with a primitive stone axe:
With it, the harversting rate is one tree per week. Fred's culture lives in equilibrium with that harvesting rate. This equilibrium is a primitive example of the Gaia Hypothesis that suggests all systems on the earth are connected and feedback to one another.
Sam would like to improve Fred's productivity and invent leisure time so that Sam can sell video games to Fred's culture to cope with leisure time. So Sam would often go off and think by himself. One day, while Sam was off thinking on the hillside, something remarkable happened and Sam got a big clue:
Holy Cow, Holy Cow, What is that!
Yes the big meteorite from the sky has landed at Sam's feet. Sam secretly takes the meteorite and its composition away to his research and development cave and after two weeks invents this:
Wow! Sam has saved the world. What an extraordinary invention. Amidst a metaphorical stand of trees, Sam very excitedly bestows this extraordinary gift on Fred as a clever marketing ploy.
So Fred takes the gift from Sam and tests it for a couple of weeks. Since Fred is unable to know what to do with his potential leisure time, Fred just cuts down trees so that eventually his world looks like this:
Fred, remember, is cursed with a conscience and therefore is forced to think about the long term consequences of Sam's gift:
After a heated debate, somewhat tempered by the fact that there were now no longer any trees locally to act as a wind break, Fred was able to convince Sam that the Iron Axe was indeed not a gift at all because it had a long term flaw. So Sam walked over to the cliff (the metaphorical edge of the world) and casually discarded the Iron Axe.
Unfortunately, the Iron Axe landed at the feet of our other character, clueless Ralph.
Ralph has been using a stone axe for centuries and Ralph's culture has unwittingly stumbled upon the concept of equilibrium. But they are clueless, incapable of inventing the Iron Axe themselves, but certainly capable of using the causually discarded Technology invited by Sam.
In an instant, Ralph discards the Stone Axe, and picks
up the Iron Axe, forever committing
the tree-based economy to end up like this: