In the prologue, Jared Diamond summarizes his methodology in one paragraph: This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapses to. "Collapse" is my third Jared Diamond book and, as before, he does not disappoint. Combining Anthropology, History and Geography with Environmental studies. 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 .
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“With Collapse, Jared Diamond has written a fascinating account of the collapse of civilizations around the world A reader cannot help but leave the book. Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed/Jared Diamond. p. cm. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other . In Jared Diamond's follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion.
'Collapse': How the World Ends
Diamond is at pains to stress the objectivity he has brought to bear on a sequence of collapse scenarios that often continue to generate serious controversy, and for the most part until the final chapter leaves it up to the reader to draw down any conclusions from these scenarios that may be relevant to our own societies today.
This pursuit of objectivity drives him into a depth of detail that on several occasions clearly impedes the narrative line he is seeking to develop. There is only so much about the middens on Easter Island or the soil structures of Greenland that one needs to know to embrace a particular collapse hypothesis. The diversity of the case studies he uses both past and present is extraordinary.
His starting point and most lovingly elaborated case study is Easter Island "the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources" , which he invites the reader to see as a "metaphor, a worst-case scenario for what may lie ahead of us in our own future".
How could this particular collapse have happened?
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Or, as one of his own students put it, what do you suppose the islander who cut down the last tree on Easter Island said to himself as he was doing it?
Given that in this instance there was no extreme shift in the island's climate at that time and no hostile invaders, why would any group of people commit "ecocide" in such a dramatic fashion?
He advances potential explanations to that question in relation to all the different collapses and near-collapses that he explores in the final third of the book.
And several of these explanations have direct relevance to our own ecological crisis: For those interested in the role of big business either as "saints" or as "sinners" in the pursuit of more sustainable ways of creating wealth , Diamond devotes a whole chapter to examining the behaviour of oil, mining and forestry companies around the world. Their recurring and often egregious "bad behaviour" can indeed be interpreted as "rational", inasmuch as governments have consistently failed to proscribe such behaviour either through legislation or by forcing companies to pay a proper price for the use of the natural world , while the majority of consumers would appear to be relatively indifferent to the environmental damage done in pursuit of their cornucopian fantasies.
But Diamond reserves his most insightful analysis for the more "irrational" reasons why we are not as yet responding to the scale and urgency of today's converging environmental problems. The often irreconcilable clash between the pursuit of short-term gratification and the defence of future generations' long-term interests features prominently in many of his collapse case studies - the concept of "intergenerational justice" was clearly no more compelling to some of these long-gone societies than it is for us today.
What's more, the greater the level of change required to a society's core values , the easier it becomes to lapse into systematic and falsely reassuring denial.
Here Diamond finally nails his colours to the mast.
Anticipating a wide range of rebuttals to his central hypothesis that the kind of collapse experienced by many cultures and civilisations in the past could easily happen to modern-day societies , he reminds people that we are already witnessing the conditions for collapse in a number of different countries: When people are desperate, undernourished and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems.
They try to emigrate at any cost.
They fight each other over land. They kill each other. All five factors worked together to undermine and finally destroy the Norse colonies that had flourished on Greenland for nearly five centuries. When Diamond turns from past to present, it becomes clear that the conditions for collapse are now coming to a head in the nations of major world powers like China and Australia as well as in political flash points like Iraq and Indonesia. The conclusion is inescapable that collapse can and will happen again, even in a seemingly blessed nation like ours, unless we recognize the warning signs and choose to act responsibly.
How can we avoid destroying our world—and our own species? He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. Among Dr.
He has published more than two hundred articles in Discover, Natural History, Nature, and Geo magazines. What inspired you to write this book? Did you conceive of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel as companion volumes from the start—or did the idea for Collapse surface only after Guns was finished?
That interest has stayed with me over the last forty years, stimulated by visits to Maya ruins and Anasazi sites and by reading about other collapsed societies. I did not conceive of Guns, Germs, and Steeland Collapse as companion volumes from the start, but I had already written some magazine articles about collapses in the s, and the idea for Collapse was percolating below the surface.
After finishing Guns, Germs, and Steel, as soon as I came to think about what would be the subject of my next book, the answer became obvious: Collapse! Both Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse are huge bestsellers—and yet both are fairly demanding books.
Man vs nature
Have you been surprised by their success? How do you account for it? Was I surprised by their success?! All authors, including me, have fantasies of achieving great success.
However, by the time that I published Collapse, I had already published three previous books for the public to douse my fantasies with the cold water of reality. Hence I really was surprised that Collapse jumped to near the top of the New York Times bestseller list within a few days of its release. The explanation is partly that many people who had already read my previous book Guns, Germs, and Steel were looking out for my next book, but the other reason is that the subject of Collapse really grabs people.
Most Americans today are troubled about our future and that of the world, and are concerned that we might be or already are heading downhill. If you suddenly found yourself with the power and the means to change one thing in the world today, what would it be? Which country or region would you choose to focus on? If I had the power and means to change only one thing of the world today, that one thing would be my being limited to change only one thing in the world today: my one change would be to give myself the power to make many changes.
The scope and the breadth of Collapse is immense, encompassing history, geography, politics, economics, environmental history, biography, even baseball. Did you have any models that inspired you—other books you admire that synthesize strands from so many different disciplines? In effect, Guns, Germs, and Steel was my model. That is not because I was consciously trying to imitate Guns, Germs, and Steel. Instead, that previous book also wrestled with a wide range of problems, and the experience that I gained throughGuns, Germs, and Steel in addressing them is what I drew on while writing Collapse.
Together Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse complete an arc, a vast circle describing the rise and fall of world civilizations. Do you plan to strike out in an entirely new direction?
Yes, there is something next, another big book about another big question of human history and human societies. I hope to complete that new book in about another five years.
How would you answer the criticism that you are being too dire?
Follow the Author
How politically motivated do you think your critics are? Do you think some critics are indulging in the sort of willed blindness or wishful thinking that contributed to the collapse of prior civilizations?
All of us know that we live our personal lives in an uncertain world, where we have to make the best predictions that we can, in full knowledge that some of our best guesses will prove wrong. It is impossible to live without continually making best guesses about the future.
Have any of the criticisms of the book caused you to rethink aspects of your argument? Details, yes; main thrusts of my argument, no. Yet even today, religion guides the lives and choices of many Americans. There are many who prefer, metaphorically if not literally, to starve rather than face an eternity in Hell. Is this likely to become as serious a problem for us as it was for the Norse in Greenland?
Do you think there is a fundamental clash between religious values and material survival running through Western civilizations? This already is a serious problem for us. Religion, like other powerful human motivations and values, can be a force for either the good or the bad.
What exactly is environmental determinism and who espouses it? How does your outlook depart from this school of thought? Environmental determinism in the strict sense is not a view that any sensible person espouses today.
This caricature is counterproductive. Of course the influence of the environment on human history is neither negligible nor all-encompassing.Today Diamond often returns to the Pacific rim, especially Australia, where in the outback one may still hear the rustle of distant animal cries just as our forebears heard them in the far past.
Jul 03, Ryan rated it really liked it Shelves: If you are in the least bit curious, this book will not only spark your interest but will satisfy you with the results of often laborious investigations, thousands of hours of work, by specialists in a number of fields.
Diamond also studied the application of natural-selection theory to physiology, and in received a National Medal of Science for that work, which is partly reflected in his book "Why Is Sex Fun? I'm not even 30, so perhaps I can't speak with a great deal of authority on the subject, but it feels to me that North America is obsessed with post-apocalyptic settings right now. A lot of this book is clearly set up to support the author's argument, that it is the roll of the dice of how delicate the ecology is where societies set up shop, and how the societies treated them that causes collapse.
Books by Jared Diamond. He has dedicated this book to his sons and future generations.
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