Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Paperback – Dec 27 2005
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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
In the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond chronicled the rise of human civilizations since the Ice Age. This time, he turns over the log and probes the rotted side--the demise of once-productive societies such as the Maya, Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse. He also sounds the alarm on environmental practices undermining modern societies, including China, Russia, Australia and the United States. Narrator Murney has his work cut out for him, even though this audiobook is abridged. The narrative, which spans the globe and the ages, is dense, overwhelmingly so at times. Diamond parses myriad ecological, geographical and biological impacts, from weather patterns to deforestation to sperm count. But Murney rises to the occasion. His engagement never flags, and he strikes all the proper notes of concern and warning. The delivery feels effortless, his tone a blend of newsreel narrator and professor-at-the-lectern. Diamond teaches geography at UCLA, and his prose style, unsurprisingly, contains shades of the lecture hall. In fact, given such abundant and oft-alarming information, listeners may feel the urge to take notes for the final exam. Though grounding materials such as photographs and maps would have made this audiobook easier to follow, their absence is a minor fault in an overall fine production.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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 ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Not as pleasant to read as the others from the same author, but a great book nevertheless.Published 16 days ago by Jean_Marc F.
Shipped on time, delivered on time, great condition on delivery, no fuss. The book reads a little dry at times, but is packed tightly with interesting facts, ideas, and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Stephen Orser
An eye-opening look at how several societies in our world collapsed. This book is more accessible and better-written than Guns Germs and Steel, which I also recommend.Published 6 months ago by Mark Richards
A very well developed explanation of why some societies succeed and others fail based upon five identifiable factors. Read morePublished 10 months ago by John Doyle
Ordered wrong book, but my wife loves it, delivery time was excellentPublished 22 months ago by Jim McDiarmid
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