Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Jared Diamond
In his runaway bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond brilliantly examined the circumstances that allowed Western civilizations to dominate much of the world. Now he probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to fall into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? Using a vast historical and geographical perspective ranging from Easter Island and the Maya to Viking Greenland and modern Montana, Diamond traces a fundamental pattern of environmental catastrophe—one whose warning signs can be seen in our modern world and that we ignore at our peril. Blending the most recent scientific advances into a narrative that is impossible to put down, Collapse exposes the deepest mysteries of the past even as it offers hope for the future.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2019-11-21
Another delightful Diamond. Nice how he switched between in-depth examples and more cursory ones. We get it, Jared, these examples are specific to their times and locales, but... follow this conveniently organized pattern, many steps of which are recognizable today. Montana, we hardly knew thee.
Reviewed: 2019-05-17
My take-away from this difficult but absolutely important book is that we urgently need to change the ways in which we think, and in which we make our collective decisions.

This book was written 12 years ago, which is frightening enough, and even then, what he described seemed overwhelming. He does a monumental job of synthesizing and analyzing data from key cultures all over the world at different times, looking at what worked and didn't work from a long-term survival point of view, and asking (a bit like the questions asked by Cook in [b:A Brief History of the Human Race|185513|A Brief History of the Human Race|Michael Alan Cook|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1388673590s/185513.jpg|179321] ) why these various societies failed or succeeded.

Most instructive, as I see it, are the contrasting examples of Greenlands live Inuits and Dead Norse, and Hispanyola's foresting Dominican Republic and stripped-bare Haiti. He points to collapses, near-collapses, and timely but not necessarily popular policies placed to prevent collapse (particularly well summarized on page 440), and also delves into the problems of mass-manipulation and the related problem of group-think, using the handling of the decision-making processes in the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missle crisis as contrasting examples of how president Kennedy adapted (even stepped out to ensure that they could think without being intimidated by his presence, wow) his governance processes in the small group situation to prevent a recurrence of his error with Bay of Pigs. How rare for a leader to insist that his advisors, and he, change their thinking strategy, and it worked. Unfortunately for the identity-bound Greenland Norse Christians, they were unable to change their thinking, and they died while the Inuits lived, under the very same climatalogical conditions, and with better tools and weapons to boot.
He goes on to answer many oft-cited solutions, like technology, as unable to solve the problems we face, which he lists in 12 major categories, unless we change (as Einstein also said) our ways of thinking, and he also pointed out that much of the problem is one related back to the Tragedy of the Commons (I remember seeing a rebuttal of that issue while working on my phd, but it escapes me) and points out that small-ish Non-anonymous groups often work best at policing themselves democratically (as my conclusions also found regarding small-scale issuance of money in [b:SHARED MONETARY GOVERNANCE: Exploring Regulatory Frameworks, Participatory Internal Decision-making and Scale in Institutional Access to General and Special Purpose Currencies|21532029|SHARED MONETARY GOVERNANCE Exploring Regulatory Frameworks, Participatory Internal Decision-making and Scale in Institutional Access to General and Special Purpose Currencies|Shira Destinie Jones Landrac|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|40860339] ) -the decision-making process is critical.

He also goes into some statistics that almost began to sound like what David Hackett Fischer talked about in [b:The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History|32082|The Great Wave Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History|David Hackett Fischer|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1388418135s/32082.jpg|32293] regarding the correlation between societal upheavals and price inflation, which is caused by any number of variables also cited here by Jared Diamond: population pressure and consumption, types of energy being gathered and used and the by-products or externalities and problems caused thereby, inequalities of various kinds, etc.

He stresses that the decisions we make collectively, upon which our lives literally depend, are often made out of a biased or even racist point of view, as with the Greenland Norse who died as civilized European Christians, refusing to learn from or cooperate with the Inuit, who lived. (Ok, maybe they didn't have the choice of cooperating with, but they could surely see that the Inuit ate things that they, the Norse, refused, and also did not keep cows or sheep, which are not good animals to raise in Greenland!)
We therefore, just as both Armstrong in [b:Islam: A Short History|27306|Islam A Short History|Karen Armstrong|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1403181902s/27306.jpg|131885] and Cook also point out, absolutely must change our ways of viewing and interacting with other cultures. We no longer, as Dr. King said over 40 years ago in [b:Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?|211888|Where Do We Go from Here Chaos or Community?|Martin Luther King Jr.|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1358780869s/211888.jpg|2686535], have the luxury of not cooperating.
Shira
14 August, 12017 HE
(the Holocene Calendar)
Reviewed: 2017-08-29
Book Description In his runaway bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond brilliantly examined the circumstances that allowed Western civilizations to dominate much of the world. Now he probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to fall into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? Using a vast historical and geographical perspective ranging from Easter Island and the Maya to Viking Greenland and modern Montana, Diamond traces a fundamental pattern of environmental catastrophe—one whose warning signs can be seen in our modern world and that we ignore at our peril. Blending the most recent scientific advances into a narrative that is impossible to put down, Collapse exposes the deepest mysteries of the past even as it offers hope for the future. Editorial Reviews Amazon.com Review 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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