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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Paperback – December 27, 2005
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The Amazon Book Review
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From the Back Cover
"Diamonds most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that dont just educate and provoke, but entertain."
The Seattle Times
"Extremely persuasive . . . replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics."
The Boston Globe
"Extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in [its] ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past."
The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Among Dr. Diamond’s many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan's Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by Rockefeller University. He has published more than two hundred articles and his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Top customer reviews
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In addition to looking at the early 2000's environmental and political situations in Rwanda, Haiti, Australia, China, and the state of Montana, he drives home his point by examining several ancient societies that literally collapsed due to environmental failure, namely, the Eastern Islands, the Anasazi of the Southwestern US, the Mayans of the Yucatan, and the Norse of Greenland, among others.
The relevance of the demise of those societies hundreds of years ago may be questioned. They were highly isolated, if not totally, and obviously had no scientific understanding of their environments. All lived in difficult climatic conditions that could not support their populations. Deforestation, soil erosion, and the elimination of edible species presaged their end. Clearly, the elites of those societies mismanaged resources to enhance their standing, but did they really have the capacity and information to choose to take their societies in different directions and not succumb to their harsh environments?
Inhospitable environments are no stranger to the 21st century, and if the vast amount of scientific and ecological information does not filter into a society, they can find themselves facing the same sort of starvation and man-versus-man confrontations of those older societies. Several areas of Africa are prime examples, and Haiti is not far behind. The author repeatedly makes the point that we live in a globalized, integrated world. The effects of population growth, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and climatic changes cannot be confined to isolated areas such as the Easter Islands.
In the 21st century, it is global corporations that have worldwide impacts. While not all of the earth's problems can be laid at the feet of global corporations, the author shows that the oil, mining, timber, and fishing industries have had deleterious impacts on the environment. The author is cautiously optimistic that the public will be able to sufficiently pressure corporations and governments to be far more pro-environment. Some initiatives are underway in some industries with modest successes.
While COLLAPSE is an important book and at times interesting, it is long, slow-going, and repetitious. Regarding his optimism, the author really does not demonstrate that there are effective environmental political movements that have substantial influence in the political process. Is choice more a chimera than not? Furthermore, he assumes that the world's main problems are environmental. Where would he put the huge worldwide divides concerning religion and haves vs. have-nots and the possibilities of nuclear war?
The author tells of his students wondering how it is that someone could cut down the last tree on Easter Island, but one might equally wonder in our democratic era how it is that we have allowed huge private entities to have so much power over our lives and permitted such a mal-distribution of resources and earnings. So who are the stupid and irresponsible: the ignorant people of the Eastern Islands or modern societies with the benefits of science, information, and the study of the past?
Most recent customer reviews
Jared Diamond gives so many thoughtful ideas about the planet and we humans.Read more