Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
The real problem with Collapse isn't the research that goes into the thesis, or even the soundness of the thesis itself (though there are some qualms I have about how politically unstable Mongolia is or basing his analysis of cod fisheries on a single popular accun...more
So despite the headline-grabbing title, the author Jared Diamond - a cross between an Amish garden gnome and avuncular Glastonbury festival supremo if you go by his picture - tries its darndest to avoid...more
The one my thoughts keep returning to is medieval Greenland, which Diamond discusses in a long and detailed chapter. Settled in the 11th century by Vikings originally from Norway...more
A masterwork, better even than Mr. Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. Collapse bridges the gap between anthropology and environmentalism, and critically connects each with our own welfare, both collectively and a...more
1. Deforestation and loss of habitat
4. Soil degradation
5. Water management problems
6. Population growth
7. Increased per capita impact of people
8. Impact of non-native species
And now we face four more:
9. Human-caused climate change
10. The build up toxic waste
11. We're approaching the limits of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity
12. Energy shortages...more
One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read about societal collapse and the squandering of resources by the wealthy and then the inevitable cannibalism that always seems to show up in the last act, I keep asking myself how the environment became a "political issue." There's no question that environmental resources aren't infinite, yet it seems like the majority of people…or at least the loudest...more
Collapse is a sobering book, but I'm just jaded enough that after about the tenth analysis of pollen readings from core samples,...more
A lot of what was in this book I already knew from my degree...more
On the side, I found the book very informative about the history of the societies. I particularly enjoy those about the Greenland's Norse(Viking). This book inspire me to expand my reading to those about archaeology and history.
One important lesson: ability and willingness to change core values (religious or secular) proved to be essent...more
I'm finally done! I know, nine weeks later...
For a specific rating, I would say the content is 4.5, readability is 3. This book is definitely worth reading, even if you don't plan on putting in the effort to thoroughly read each section. The section on ancient cultures if interesting, but his level of detail is not necessary to understanding the main points of his book. For example, I found myself slightly skimming the paragraphs describing precisely how sc...more
Four or five stars for the first two-thirds. I loved learning about the resourceful, entertaining, and possibly suspect ways some archaeologists use to try to figure out how people lived a long long time ago, even when those people ended up virtually destroying themselves and leaving behind little else behind besides garbage -- people who, with no compasses, no longitude, and no ships, traveled vast distance...more
Environmental preservation or degradation,
The presence of friendly external trade partners,
The presence of external enemies, and finally,
That society's ability and willingness to respond to the previous four factors.
To develop his theory, Diamond discusses about a dozen different societies, past and present, which had experienced various combinations of troubles with the first four factors, and...more
Honestly, if t...more
Diamond provides a glimpse into the collapse (or prevention of collapse) of various societies such as Easter Island, the Vikings in Greenland, and the Mayans. Some of these people I had never heard of, and it was always worth reading.
The book becomes more gripping towards the later chapters, where Diamond outlines issues facing mode...more
Are we doomed, or can the next generation save us from ecological suicide? UCLA geography professor Diamond's provocative, interdisciplinary picture of social decline paints a bleak vision of our future. He writes well, has done impressive research, and tells fascinating stories. Yet, his thesis failed to convince many critics. He connects his stories with common themes, but often draws tenuous links between past and present, especially given today's use of technology and global markets to help...more
First, on a more superficial level, it could have used another round or two of editing. There are multiple occasions where he hammers home the same point multiple times for the same culture, particularly in Chapters 6-8 dealing with the Greenland Norse. This book could have been slimmer by a solid 40-50 pages without losing much.
Also, he rarely cites his sources directly in the text, often just referring to researcher names....more
He looks at the current situations in Rwanda, Haiti, Australia, China, and the state of Montana and then compares them to ancient societies that collapsed due to environmental failure; Easter Island,...more
What struck me in his final chapter was how nonchalantly he denies how transportation could be made to work in his...more
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