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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition [Paperback]

Jared Diamond
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 4 2011
In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization

Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies around the world, but some found solutions and persisted. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe, and weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Collapse moves from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking colony on Greenland. Similar problems face us today and have already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are trying to cope in innovative ways. Despite our own society’s apparently inexhaustible wealth and unrivaled political power, ominous warning signs have begun to emerge even in ecologically robust areas like Montana.

Brilliant, illuminating, and immensely absorbing, Collapse is destined to take its place as one of the essential books of our time, raising the urgent question: How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?


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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition + Guns, Germs, and Steel + The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
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From Amazon

Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is the glass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Guns, Germs, and Steel explained the geographic and environmental reasons why some human populations have flourished, Collapse uses the same factors to examine why ancient societies, including the Anasazi of the American Southwest and the Viking colonies of Greenland, as well as modern ones such as Rwanda, have fallen apart. Not every collapse has an environmental origin, but an eco-meltdown is often the main catalyst, he argues, particularly when combined with society's response to (or disregard for) the coming disaster. Still, right from the outset of Collapse, the author makes clear that this is not a mere environmentalist's diatribe. He begins by setting the book's main question in the small communities of present-day Montana as they face a decline in living standards and a depletion of natural resources. Once-vital mines now leak toxins into the soil, while prion diseases infect some deer and elk and older hydroelectric dams have become decrepit. On all these issues, and particularly with the hot-button topic of logging and wildfires, Diamond writes with equanimity.

Because he's addressing such significant issues within a vast span of time, Diamond can occasionally speak too briefly and assume too much, and at times his shorthand remarks may cause careful readers to raise an eyebrow. But in general, Diamond provides fine and well-reasoned historical examples, making the case that many times, economic and environmental concerns are one and the same. With Collapse, Diamond hopes to jog our collective memory to keep us from falling for false analogies or forgetting prior experiences, and thereby save us from potential devastations to come. While it might seem a stretch to use medieval Greenland and the Maya to convince a skeptic about the seriousness of global warming, it's exactly this type of cross-referencing that makes Collapse so compelling. --Jennifer Buckendorff --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his Pulitzer Prize–winning bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, geographer Diamond laid out a grand view of the organic roots of human civilizations in flora, fauna, climate and geology. That vision takes on apocalyptic overtones in this fascinating comparative study of societies that have, sometimes fatally, undermined their own ecological foundations. Diamond examines storied examples of human economic and social collapse, and even extinction, including Easter Island, classical Mayan civilization and the Greenland Norse. He explores patterns of population growth, overfarming, overgrazing and overhunting, often abetted by drought, cold, rigid social mores and warfare, that lead inexorably to vicious circles of deforestation, erosion and starvation prompted by the disappearance of plant and animal food sources. Extending his treatment to contemporary environmental trouble spots, from Montana to China to Australia, he finds today's global, technologically advanced civilization very far from solving the problems that plagued primitive, isolated communities in the remote past. At times Diamond comes close to a counsel of despair when contemplating the environmental havoc engulfing our rapidly industrializing planet, but he holds out hope at examples of sustainability from highland New Guinea's age-old but highly diverse and efficient agriculture to Japan's rigorous program of forest protection and, less convincingly, in recent green consumerism initiatives. Diamond is a brilliant expositor of everything from anthropology to zoology, providing a lucid background of scientific lore to support a stimulating, incisive historical account of these many declines and falls. Readers will find his book an enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the indissoluble links that bind humans to nature. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
A few summers ago I visited two dairy farms, Huls Farm and Gardar Farm, which despite being located thousands of miles apart were still remarkably similar in their strengths and vulnerabilities. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My 100-word book review Sept. 14 2006
Format:Paperback
Collapse is a thoroughly researched and fascinating book offering reasons why civilisations have failed in the past. The Mayans, Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse each encountered complex problems that eventually became catastrophic. Jared Diamond offers no simplistic explanation but describes a number of causes, such as climate change, geography and psychological flaws, which can reinforce one another and lead to disaster. The author does not take an overly pro-environmental stance, recognising that industry has a vital role to play in protecting our world. He provides a salutary lesson from history that current and future generations would do well to heed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Aug. 13 2006
Format:Paperback
In Collapse, Jared Diamond has successfully examined the thousands of year of human history, by evaluating many of the great civilizations that went extinct due to their inability to recognize the limits of their resources and the strength of the forces of nature. The failures of those ancient and modern societies especially in Africa and Asia, as well the Easter Island and Greenland stemmed from the fact that they were compromised by their environment through disasters that were either natural or induced.

In this well-researched book, Diamond wrote of eco-disasters and the depletion of environmental resources through unsustainable measures as the principal causes of the demise of those societies. Not only that, he mentioned some societies that that have solved their ecological problems and succeeded. Nevertheless, the overriding point Diamond made is that in this age of globalization, societies must take collective actions to avoid the collapse of the world's highly interdependent global economy, since it is fast approaching its unsustainable level. This book is a wake up call for the world to develop sustainable sources of energy that does not compromise the environment. Hydrogen cars, solar energy etc should be things for the immediate tomorrow.

The lesson is clear. Those societies that can adapt their ways of life to be in line with the potentials of their environment last while those societies that abuse their resources ultimate commit suicide, and so fail. Now, for the first time in human history, modern technology, global interdependence and international cooperation have provided us with the means and opportunity to judiciously use our resource and prevent their depletion not only from a small scale, but from a global scale as well.
Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is a good book if you don't already realize that we're screwing ourselves as a species. If this describes you, then read this book. It is methodical, it makes a strong case, and it doesn't degenerate into rhetoric like lots of environmentally themed books. Diamond does not present an Ehrlich-like appocalypitic certainty-he is generous enough, and confident enough in human beings' resourcefullness, to give us even odds. This is nice, because, while I do believe we're hooped if we don't change, I do believe we CAN change, and alot of popular books on this subject always just tell us we're done like dinner.
For fans of Guns, Germs and Steel, don't expect this book to be anywhere near as good. If you are an environmentally-minded person and have done some reading on the subject, don't expect to take a whole lot of new, relevant, information from this book. It is pretty damn boring. By making his case methodically, step-by-step, Diamond bored me to tears (especially in the early going). It is important that he makes his case in this manner, to close the loop-holes for lunatic right-wing economists, but from a literary point of view it is a terrible read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid read April 17 2006
Format:Paperback
Collapse is a thoroughly presented, but somewhat tedious examination of environmental impact on the collapse of societies. Diamond is too skilled a writer to make the read boring, but the sheer volume of information (and yes, repetition) can make for some dry material. Still, it is a good basic introduction to the subject and Diamond gets full marks from me for keeping himself above the usual partisan rhetoric.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating April 7 2006
Format:Paperback
In Collapse, Jared Diamond has successfully examined the thousands of year of human history, by evaluating many of the great civilizations that went extinct due to their inability to recognize the limits of their resources and the strength of the forces of nature. The failures of those ancient and modern societies especially in Africa and Asia, as well the Easter Island and Greenland stemmed from the fact that they were compromised by their environment through disasters that were either natural or induced.
In this well-researched book, Diamond wrote of eco-disasters and the depletion of environmental resources through unsustainable measures as the principal causes of the demise of those societies. Not only that, he mentioned some societies that that have solved their ecological problems and succeeded. Nevertheless, the overriding point Diamond made is that in this age of globalization, societies must take collective actions to avoid the collapse of the world's highly interdependent global economy, since it is fast approaching its unsustainable level. This book is a wake up call for the world to develop sustainable sources of energy that does not compromise the environment. Hydrogen cars, solar energy etc should be things for the immediate tomorrow.
The lesson is clear. Those societies that can adapt their ways of life to be in line with the potentials of their environment last while those societies that abuse their resources ultimate commit suicide, and so fail. Now, for the first time in human history, modern technology, global interdependence and international cooperation have provided us with the means and opportunity to judiciously use our resource and prevent their depletion not only from a small scale, but from a global scale as well.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Your Collapse
You may well feel enervated after the long journey through the rich and dense material of this excellent book, however, the view from the top is certainly worth the effort. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Critchley
5.0 out of 5 stars Good systematic study of previous collapses
If you're interested in where our civilization on earth is headed, and what we might do about it read this book.
Published 4 months ago by Alex MacAulay
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is so important
This book is a wealth of information. It is a long read but gripped me through the entire journey because of implications it has to our own nations and planet. Well worth it.
Published 7 months ago by Rhea Darch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Analysis
This book was recommended to me by my financial analyst. Jared Diamond does a thorough job of looking at a complex subject and breaking it down into clear, objective measurements. Read more
Published 8 months ago by MRMLEM
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting View on Society
Enjoyed reading about the other parts of the world and how they have evolved. Enlightening to say the least. The things they don't teach you in school.
Published 9 months ago by ramertl@sympatico.ca
5.0 out of 5 stars A re-read and glad I did.
I read this book when first published then passed it on to a friend. I was very glad I choose to read it again. Read more
Published 16 months ago by bookweasel
4.0 out of 5 stars Do We Have A Future?
"Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Survive" by Jared Diamond is the follow-up to his excellent "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies". Read more
Published on July 13 2012 by Dave_42
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast, reliable Canada Post
The good thing about ordering from other companies on Amazon.ca is that usually the book is cheaper, and best of all it is delivered using regular mail. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2012 by Julie Ann David
5.0 out of 5 stars Jared Diamond should rule the world
If you'd like to understand why our societies are currently experiencing such crisis, read this book. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2012 by David Sabine
4.0 out of 5 stars Collapse - Jared Diamond
Well researched, well written. Profound knowledge of history and sociology. Great comparison between peoples and civilizations. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2011 by Raul Carreras
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