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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
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Collapse Quotes (showing 1-30 of 38)
“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“The metaphor is so obvious. Easter Island isolated in the Pacific Ocean — once the island got into trouble, there was no way they could get free. There was no other people from whom they could get help. In the same way that we on Planet Earth, if we ruin our own [world], we won't be able to get help.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Two types of choices seem to me to have been crucial in tipping the outcomes [of the various societies' histories] towards success or failure: long-term planning and willingness to reconsider core values. On reflection we can also recognize the crucial role of these same two choices for the outcomes of our individual lives.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“To me, the conclusion that the public has the ultimate responsibility for the behavior of even the biggest businesses is empowering and hopeful, rather than disappointing. My conclusion is not a moralistic one about who is right or wrong, admirable or selfish, a good guy or a bad guy. My conclusion is instead a prediction, based on what I have seen happening in the past. Businesses have changed when the public came to expect and require different behavior, to reward businesses for behavior that the public wanted, and to make things difficult for businesses practicing behaviors that the public didn't want. I predict that in the future, just as in the past, changes in public attitudes will be essential for changes in businesses' environmental practices.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“History as well as life itself is complicated -- neither life nor history is an enterprise for those who seek simplicity and consistency.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Science is often misrepresented as ‘the body of knowledge acquired by performing replicated controlled experiments in the laboratory.’ Actually, science is something broader: the acquisition of reliable knowledge about the world.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“People often ask, "What is the single most important environmental population problem facing the world today?" A flip answer would be, "The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Above all, it seems to me wrongheaded and dangerous to invoke historical assumptions about environmental practices of native peoples in order to justify treating them fairly. ... By invoking this assumption [i.e., that they were/are better environmental stewards than other peoples or parts of contemporary society] to justify fair treatment of native peoples, we imply that it would be OK to mistreat them if that assumption could be refuted. In fact, the case against mistreating them isn't based on any historical assumption about their environmental practices: it's based on a moral principle, namely, that it is morally wrong for one people to dispossess, subjugate or exterminate another people.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“In contrast [to trees and fish], oil, metals, and coal are not renewable; they don't reproduce, sprout, or have sex to produce baby oil droplets or coal nuggets.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“...neither life nor history is an enterprise for those who seek simplicity and consistency.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“For anyone inclined to caricature environmental history as 'environmental determinism,' the contrasting histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti provide a useful antidote. Yes, environmental problems do constrain human societies, but the societies' responses also make a difference.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote ... can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past. That's why I wrote this book.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“The Anasazi did manage to construct in stone the largest and tallest buildings erected in North America until the Chicago steel girder skyscrapers of the 1880s.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Many of our problems are broadly similar to those that undermined ... Norse Greenland, and that many other past societies also struggled to solve. Some of those past societies failed (like the Greenland Norse) and others succeeded ... The past offers us a rich database from which we can learn in order that we may keep on succeeding.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“(On the beginning of the mid-1990s' genocidal war in Rwanda:)

Within six weeks, an estimated 800,000 Tutsi, representing about three-quarters of the Tutsi then remaining in Rwanda, or 11% of Rwanda's total population, had been killed.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Así pues, tanto las sociedades como los grupos humanos más pequeños pueden tomar decisiones catastróficas por toda una serie secuenciada de razones: la imposibilidad de prever un problema, la imposibilidad de percibirlo una vez que se ha producido, la incapacidad para disponerse a resolverlo una vez que se ha percibido y el fracaso en las tentativas de resolverlos”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Montana would have been better off in the long run if it had never mined copper at all but had just imported it from Chile, leaving the resulting problems to the Chileans! It”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition
“the values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive
“Thus, Norse society’s structure created a conflict between the short-term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive
“Almost everywhere else in the world, my archaeologist friends have an uphill struggle to convince governments that what archaeologists do has any conceivable practical value. They try to get funding agencies to understand that studies of the fates of past societies may help us understand what could happen to societies living in that same area today. In particular, they reason, environmental damage that developed in the past could develop again in the present, so one might use knowledge of the past to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Most governments ignore these pleas of archaeologists.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive
“society’s structure created a conflict between the short-term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition
“As on Easter Island and at Chaco Canyon, Maya peak population numbers were followed swiftly by political and social collapse. Paralleling the eventual extension of agriculture from Easter Island's coastal lowlands to its uplands, and from the Mimbres floodplain to the hills, Copan's inhabitants also expanded from the floodplain to the more fragile hill slopes, leaving them with a larger population to feed when the agricultural boom in the hills went bust. Like Easter Island chiefs erecting ever larger statues, eventually crowned by pukao, and like Anasazi elite treating themselves to necklaces of 2,000 turquoise beads, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, covered with thicker and thicker plaster-reminiscent in turn of the extravagant conspicuous consumption by modern American CEOs. The passivity of Easter chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the real big threats to their societies completes our list of disquieting parallels.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu concluded that Europeans and Christianity posed a threat to the stability of the shogunate and Japan. (In retrospect, when one considers how European military intervention followed the arrival of apparently innocent traders and missionaries in China, India, and many other countries, the threat foreseen by Ieyasu was real.)”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive
“I have often asked myself, "What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?" Like modern loggers, did he shout "Jobs, not trees!"? Or: "Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we'll find a substitute for wood"? Or: "We don't have proof that there aren't palms somewhere else on Easter, we need more research, your proposed ban on logging is premature and driven by fear-mongering"? Similar questions arise for every society that has inadvertently damaged its environment.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“All these adoptions of European styles make it obvious that the Greenlanders paid very close attention to European fashions and followed them in detail. The adoptions carry the unconscious message, “We are Europeans, we are Christians, God forbid that anyone could confuse us with the Inuit.” Just as Australia, when I began visiting it in the 1960s, was more British than Britain itself, Europe’s most remote outpost of Greenland remained emotionally tied to Europe. That would have been innocent if the ties had expressed themselves only in two-sided combs and in the position in which the arms were folded over a corpse. But the insistence on “We are Europeans” becomes more serious when it leads to stubbornly maintaining cows in Greenland’s climate, diverting manpower from the summer hay harvest to the Nordrseta hunt, refusing to adopt useful features of Inuit technology, and starving to death as a result. To us in our secular modern society, the predicament in which the Greenlanders found themselves is difficult to fathom. To them, however, concerned with their social survival as much as with their biological survival, it was out of the question to invest less in churches, to imitate or intermarry with the Inuit, and thereby to face an eternity in Hell just in order to survive another winter on Earth. The Greenlanders’ clinging to their European Christian image may have been a factor in their conservatism that I mentioned above: more European than Europeans themselves, and thereby culturally hampered in making the drastic lifestyle changes that could have helped them survive.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive
“...the Viking expansion is a good example of what is termed an auto-catalytic process. In chemistry the term catalysis means the speeding-up of a chemical reaction by an added ingredient, such as an enzyme. Some chemical reactions produce a product that also acts as a catalyst, so that the speed of the reaction starts from nothing an then runs away as some product is formed, catalyzing and driving the reaction faster and producing more product which drives the reaction still faster. Such a chain reaction is termed auto-catalytic, the prime example being the explosion of an atomic bomb when neutrons in a critical mass of uranium split uranium nuclei to release energy plus more neutrons, which split still more nuclei.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Zo is het gegaan met de Indiaanse bevolking van San Nicolas-eiland, voor de kust van Los Angeles, die uiteindelijk werd gereduceerd tot één enkele vrouw die in volstrekte afzondering nog 18 jaar leefde.[...] Brachten de laatste inwoners van Henderson veel tijd door op het strand, generatie na generatie starend over zee in hoop de kano's te zien die nooit meer kwamen, totdat zelfs de herinnering aan hoe een kano eruitzag was vervaagd?”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Toen de bewoners van Paaseiland in de problemen kwamen, konden ze nergens heen, was er niemand bij wie ze hulp konden zoeken - en wij moderne aardbewoners zullen evenmin elders ons heil kunnen zoeken als onze problemen groter worden. Dat zijn de redenen waarom mensen de ondergang van Paaseiland zien als een metafoor, een doemscenario voor wat ons in onze eigen toekomst misschien te wachten staat.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“In plaats van de voormalige wilde voedselbronnen te consumeren, gingen de eilandbewoners over op de grootste beschikbare bron die ze tot nog toe niet hadden benut: mensen, van wie beenderen niet allen in echte graven terecht kwamen, maar ook in latere afvalhopen op Paaseiland - gebroken, het merg was eruit gezogen. De traditionele verhalen van de eilandbewoners staan bol van kannibalisme: de meest beledigende opmerking die je tegen een vijand kon maken was:'Moge het vlees van je moeder tussen mijn tanden blijven plakken!”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
“Similarly, in an autocatalytic expanison of a human population, some initial advantages that a people gains (such as technological advantages) bring them profits or discoveries, which in turn stimulate more people to seek profits or discoveries, which result in even more profits and discoveries stimulating even more people to set out, until that people has filled up all the areas available to them with those advantages, at which point the autocatalytic expansion ceases to catalyze itself and runs out of steam.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

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