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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition Paperback – Jan 4 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (Jan. 4 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117001
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 3.5 x 21.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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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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

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Cull on 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 By ginger snaps on Sept. 25 2007
Format: Paperback
It was a pleasant surprise that Collapse was not as depressing as I thought it could be. Despite its gloomy subject matter, Jared Diamond's sober and lucid analysis is more reassuring than frightening, providing a measured warning to readers.

Diamond uses the fascinating historical accounts of past societies (Easter Island, the Maya etc) to illustrate the common causes of societal failure, and repeatedly emphasizes the relevance of their demise to our current problems. (Perhaps a little too repeatedly as it is hard to miss the point.)

Discussions about modern societies are even more interesting. I did not know that population pressure was behind the genocide in Rwanda. I did not know that seemingly harmless rabbits are devastating Australian soils either (which is sad as it is not really rabbits' fault).

Diamond is also fair in recognizing the effort of some big businesses, along with government initiatives, in order to minimize environmental damage and develop sustainable resource management. If more companies follow suit and more governments consider environmental issues a priority, it would make a substantial difference. Surely this is not a new argument. However there is nothing wrong to remind us that, as consumers and society members, we can influence their decisions, if we choose to.

This book may be too simplified for specialists but is a good starting point for the public audience like myself. It definitely helped me understand inter-relations between environmental issues and social, economic, political conditions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sancho Mahle on 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.
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Format: Paperback
Although the book's title engendered in my expectant mind stories of dramatic military or social collapse ultimately a result of human mis-deeds, once again (as in Guns, Germs and Steel) Jared Diamond's showmanship in titling has allowed him to deliver - to the widest possible audience - an ultimately equally striking anthology of tales of environmental history and environmental economics.

In short, this book contains a carefully researched series of anecdotes on historical environmental management problems that were both influenced - and, fortunately, also archeologically evidenced - by human conduct. Many of the examples in the volume wouldn't seem dramatic summarized in short quips, but, taken together, they paint a more enlightening landscape of issues from soil erosion to over-foresting and from human resourcefulness to rigidness.

Much like Guns, Germs and Steel, Mr. Diamond is highly influenced by his training in Biology, his obvious interest in archaeology and his love of Oceania and Polynesia - areas of the world often excluded from more mainstream European popular histories. His interest in linguistics pops up less frequently than in that earlier work however, and the narrative in this book is less flowing. It will seem, perhaps, just as thoroughly researched (and planned with the end in mind) but also much more fragmented and narrow than was Guns, Germs and Steel.

In my opinion, Mr. Diamond's interest in the issues of Collapse is genuine and heartfelt (no Al Gore coattail-rider is he), and I further believe that this collection is neither intended to ride the success of his earlier work, nor that of the environmental movement generally; as someone lucky enough to spend a great deal of his time dedicated to investigating issues that truly interest him, it merely buttresses both.
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