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.
It turned out to be a lot more complex, with several equally influential factors involved, such as climate change, the presence of hostile neighbours, any involvement in trade, and a host of different response mechanisms on the part of those facing potential collapse.
Each collapse or near-collapse throws up a different balance of those key factors. 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.
Man vs nature
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? 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: a failure to anticipate future consequences; an inability to read trends or see behind the phenomenon of "creeping normalcy", with things getting just a little bit worse each year than the year before but not bad enough for anyone to notice; the disproportionate power of detached elites, particularly when they condone or even positively promote what he describes as "rational bad behaviour" on the part of those who manage or use natural resources.
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.
'Collapse': How the World Ends
They try to emigrate at any cost. They fight each other over land. They kill each other. They start civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism. Interestingly, however, Diamond chooses not to conclude his arguments on that apocalyptic note.
Reverting to the inference of his subtitle "how societies choose to fail or survive" , he briefly reviews the intriguing history of the Netherlands, the country with the highest level of environmental awareness and membership of environmental organisations anywhere in the world.
One-fifth of the total land mass of the Netherlands is below sea level, reclaimed from the sea over centuries, and protected by a complex system of dykes and pumping operations.
These reclaimed lands are called "polders", and the Dutch have a clear sense of themselves as "all down in the polders together - we've learned throughout history that we're all living in the same polder, and that our survival depends on each other's survival". This is a country that has chosen to avoid collapse through a combination of solidarity and smart engineering.
The title for Diamond's final chapter, "The World as a Polder", is premised on his optimistic instinct that even as the threat of ecological meltdown seems to get greater by the year, so too does our awareness of our interdependence and the need for unprecedented solidarity if we are to secure any kind of sustainable future.
Diamond may well see in the extraordinary response of the rich world to those countries shattered by the Indian Ocean tsunami precisely the kind of empathy and engagement on which our ability to avoid ecological collapse will surely depend. As isolated systems, islands are more vulnerable than continents.
Most dire warnings about species extinction, for example, are estimates drawn from studies of island ecologies, where a stressed species may have no place to retreat to. But most species don't live on islands.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the leading authority on biodiversity, estimates that about 9 percent of the world's vertebrate species are imperiled. That's plenty bad enough, but does not support the idea that a "large fraction" of species are poised to vanish. Like most species, most people do not live on islands, yet "Collapse" tries to generalize from environmental failures on isolated islands to environmental threats to society as a whole. Diamond rightly warns of alarming trends in biodiversity, soil loss, freshwater limits China is depleting its aquifers at a breakneck rate , overfishing much of the developing world relies on the oceans for protein and climate change there is a strong scientific consensus that future warming could be dangerous.
These and other trends may lead to a global crash: Because population pressure played a prominent role in the collapses of some past societies, Diamond especially fears population growth. Owing to sheer numbers it is an "impossibility" that the developing world will ever reach Western living standards. Some projections suggest the globe's population, now about 6 billion, may peak at about 8.
To Diamond, this is a nightmare scenario: But wait -- pre-Meiji Japan collapsed!
He does not say. Nuclear war, plague, a comet strike or coerced mass sterilizations seem the only forces that might stop the human population from rising to its predicted peak. Everyone dislikes traffic jams and other aspects of population density, but people are here and cannot be wished away; the challenge is to manage social pressure and create enough jobs until the population peak arrives.
And is it really an "impossibility" for developing-world living standards to reach the Western level? A century ago, rationalists would have called global consumption of 78 million barrels per day of petroleum an impossibility, and that's the latest figure.
If trends remain unchanged, the global economy is unsustainable. But the Fallacy of Uninterrupted Trends tells us patterns won't remain unchanged. For instance, deforestation of the United States, rampant in the 19th century, has stopped: Wood is no longer a primary fuel, while high-yield agriculture allowed millions of acres to be retired from farming and returned to trees. Today wood is a primary fuel in the developing world, so deforestation is acute; but if developing nations move on to other energy sources, forest cover will regrow.
If the West changes from fossil fuel to green power, its worst resource trend will not continue uninterrupted. Though Diamond endorses "cautious optimism," "Collapse" comes to a wary view of the human prospect.
Diamond fears our fate was set in motion in antiquity -- we're living off the soil and petroleum bequeathed by the far past, and unless there are profound changes in behavior, all may crash when legacy commodities run out. Oddly, for someone with a background in evolutionary theory, he seems not to consider society's evolutionary arc. He thinks backward 13, years, forward only a decade or two.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
What might human society be like 13, years from now? Above us in the Milky Way are essentially infinite resources and living space. If the phase of fossil-driven technology leads to discoveries that allow Homo sapiens to move into the galaxy, then resources, population pressure and other issues that worry Diamond will be forgotten. Most of the earth may even be returned to primordial stillness, and the whole thing would have happened in the blink of an eye by nature's standards.
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See next articles. Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box.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.
Moving from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking colony on Greenland, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe.
If we are going to keep the global society from reaching the point of some real collapse, we need to change the rhetoric with which we talk about the "environment. 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? Oct 23, Jessica rated it really liked it Recommends it for: