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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

(Civilizations Rise and Fall #2)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  57,896 ratings  ·  3,206 reviews
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 can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?

In his million-copy bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and immunities t
Paperback, 608 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Penguin Books Ltd. (London) (first published December 29th 2004)
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Nanda Ramesh Not a question really....but, yes I agree. Provokes you into thinking of what were doing right now to our planet!
Aketzle I'm not sure it was within the scope of his book to offer solutions for energy reduction. Not that he couldn't have included that, but I'm not sure it…moreI'm not sure it was within the scope of his book to offer solutions for energy reduction. Not that he couldn't have included that, but I'm not sure it's fair to expect that of him. He covered a LOT of material. That's arguably a problem for others to solve. He has painted the picture of what may happen if we don't, based on solid evidence.

I do agree that a portrait of what modern Western societies may look like as they decline (e.g., what tribulations we may encounter) would be fascinating, though. (less)

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Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Jared Diamond looks at several societies that have collapsed as a result of misusing their natural resources, plus a couple (Tokugawa period Japan is the star example) that miraculously managed to pull back from the brink. At the end, he also talks about some present-day cases where we still don't know what will happen.

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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating work by the same author who won a Pulitzer prize for Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.

This exhaustive study in Malthusian economics as applied to several societies in history that have failed, such as the Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse, details the thematic traits common to each example. His chapter on Easter Island made me think of Thor Heyerdahl's work there.

Most notably is how deforestation and imprudent population control applies to modern societies in
Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Terrifying how often the pattern of exploitation of nature and decline of cultures has repeated itself.

The fitting additional book to Diamonds work "Guns Germs and Steel" offers past and present scenarios of various environmental conditions and the mastery or miserable failure of the peoples trying to master the challenge. Especially in isolated societies, where the socio-cultural aspect is much more emphasized by the absence of invaders or other disturbing factors, the processes leading to the
Kenghis Khan
Jul 17, 2007 rated it liked it
The Pulitzer-prize winning "Guns, Germs and Steel" by this dude forever changed the way I look at history. And believe me, I am a history buff of sorts so this means a lot. Unfortunately, "Collapse" fails to measure up to that classic.

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
Will Byrnes
This is a major work. Diamond looks in detail at the factors at play in the demise of civilizations in human history, using a wide range of examples. He offers a framework in which to structure the analysis and looks in great detail at possible (and in many cases certain) reasons why various societies collapsed. He is not a one-note analyst. All problems do not fit the same mold. There is considerable nuance and common sense brought to bear on this examination. Foolishness plays a part, greed, c ...more
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I considered giving this book 4 instead of 5 stars simply because it can be over-dense in its detail and the style can be rather dry - but then I figured that says more about my stamina and laziness than about the quality of the book, so the book gets 5 and I get a 4 for effort. We're all winners.

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
Jan 20, 2011 rated it liked it
The halfway point review:

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
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco
In Collapse, Jared Diamond draws our attention to the following problems, which have "plagued" humanity throughout history.

1. Deforestation and loss of habitat
2. Overhunting
3. Overfishing
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
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an exhaustive and exhausting read. Should’ve been tightened up and trimmed down, not only did I get tired of the meandering but I got worn down from getting machine-gunned with an avalanche of what I considered often superfluous details. Still, I thought it was very good, the historical examples of collapse (and also the examples of societies that successfully changed to avoid disaster) were interesting. It put the contemporary analysis/problems we face in perspective.

I remember reading
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, anthropology
Guns, Germs and Steel occasionally felt like monday morning quarterbacking, but Collapse is superb. In GG&S, Diamond tried to explain how technologies that evolved in some places did not in others, how some communities thrived due to excess food and more advanced agriculture, while others, perpetually on the verge of starvation, had to devote all of their time to dealing with that and thus didn't have time for building the Parthenon. The argument was not airtight - his notion of what constitutes ...more
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
So I was in Belize for the holiday and became fascinated with all the Mayan ruins I visited. I had been to Copan in Honduras years ago, but was reminded of the great glory of this civilization, and the controversial collapse that happened to disperse people from these great structures around 900 AD.

I love Guns Germs and Steel more than anything, it changed how I look at history and people and society, so I dug into this one, particularly the Mayan part, with great excitement. And it doesn't disa
5-star topic. -1 for organization in the first half. -3 for farcical political economy in the second half.

The Mediocre:
--The first half surveys a handful of historical collapses and a few survivals; frankly, I do not think there is need to give too much credit for a good choice of topic and fact-gathering. This topic deserves much higher expectations.
--I am always impressed how we have standardized bad writing (think “textbook” writing). In this case, we took end-of-civilization (literally) ma
As I have read this book the bush fire crisis in Australia was making news worldwide. Jared Diamond devoted an entire chapter to Australia in this 15 year old book and it made stark reading considering. He hardly covered fire that devours but had a lot to say about water, agriculture and mining. Mining is huge in this country to the point that multi national and local miners can campaign very hard, with the mass media heavyweight assistance of US plutocrat Rupert Murdoch, to get what they want. ...more
Charlie George
[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading, and recommend it emphatically if you have an interest in any of the subjects in which I have it categorized on my shelves.]

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
The author of this book was extremely long-winded, so I am going to do the opposite with this review and keep it short and simple.

I went into this read excited by the content. I love history and I love little known history even more. This book was a blend of past, present and future regarding how humans are affecting the planet. The basic premise was good and the examples the author chose to write about were perfect. I rank the chapters that discussed Easter Island, various other islands and Gre
simon aloyts
Jun 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
The esteemed Jared Diamond, author of one of the most insightful and profound books of the previous decade: Guns Germs and Steel, tried to break the wave of his success on Collapse, a book about the failure of societies due to a laundry-list of (mostly environmental) issues. It’s too soon to render a verdict on the bearded Professor (unlike Paul Ehrlich and Rachel Carson) since he wisely chose topics which cannot be gauged within a human lifetime but the book itself was a real steaming pile of e ...more
Although I only gave this book three stars, I can recommend it a little bit over that. I found it interesting, but not quite as compelling as I might have if I wasn’t already familiar with some parts of the story. I took graduate classes in International Relations, specializing in China as well as international political economy, so I didn’t find any surprises in the abstract background to Collapse.

Some very intriguing parts were the stories of collapse of vanished societies, as many have noted
Saleh MoonWalker
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Onvan : Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Nevisande : Jared Diamond - ISBN : 143036556 - ISBN13 : 9780143036555 - Dar 608 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2004
Gumble's Yard
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book recommended to anyone who enjoyed The Overstory and who wants a non-fictional account of many of the ideas there.

Very detailed book by author of “Guns, Germs and Steel” – enjoyable and provocative, although very detailed and easiest to read simply cover-to-cover while trying to absorb the bigger picture.

Diamond’s big theme is to look at historical environmental induced societal collapse and to identify five main reasons that cause collapse (or its opposite). These are: damage that people
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Nathanael
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed succeeds in educating the reader about components of previous societies that led to their collapses and how those same components present themselves in today's global society. Lest anyone thinks this creates a negative, somber doomsday of a book, it doesn't. Diamond writes positively and offers much hope. I appreciated his approach to controversial subjects such as abortion used as a method to keep population down. He doesn't resort to the typica ...more
Lilo Abernathy
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you care about the world and the survival of the human race, then you must read this book. Period. Buy it now.

It will teach you more than you ever thought possible in one book. You will look at the world differently. It will expand your mind.

- Lilo
Author of The Light Who Shines

And just to be technically correct, this is not a review. It is a recommendation.
dead letter office
Jul 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Extremely repetitive, inadequately researched, highly speculative, and overly assertive. Jared Diamond clearly knows a lot about some things, but he seems to think he knows a lot about everything. And he gets a lot wrong, at least on the things I know something about (Easter Island, for example, where his Collapse hypothesis is generally regarded by people who actually study the island's history and prehistory as wildly off-base and unsupported by evidence).

This book was clearly written by some
Will Ansbacher
Oct 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, history
This would have been a better book at about half the length. Diamond is a devotee of that style that is heavily promoted for oral presentations – say what you are going to say, say it using bullets for emphasis and clarity, and say what you just said by way of summary. The dreaded PowerPoint syndrome, in other words. So, when ploughing through the admittedly interesting and illuminating chapters, I found I was waiting each time for the Five Points That Indicate Society’s Success or Failure, and ...more
13th book for 2018.

This is a big, detailed book that covers a lot of ground. To get a couple of things out of the way: it's not a repeat of Diamond's earlier book Guns, Germs, Steel; and it's not Diamond arguing for some sort of environmental determinism. Diamond believes that societal outcomes are related to three main factors:

Environment + Social Structures + Technology = Societal Outcome

This equation is misleading, as the factors interact (e..g, environment may limit trade, which then limits
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fatalists
I did read at least half of this book. The section on Easter Island is one of the most memorable things I've read in the past few years, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

This book goes on my guilt shelf because shortly after he got to China, I got too depressed to continue. It's also a bit heavy (literally) for subway reading, and returning to New York from California with it combined with the prospect of learning about China's impact on the environment was just too much for this reader.... So Col
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've just completed a second reading of this exemplary book of science writing. It's no joke to say I am doubly impressed.

Jared Diamond shows how careful reasoning can bring understanding while his love of the scientific investigative process pulls the reader into intimate contact with distant places and times that offer lessons for today. While his Guns, Germs and Steel is written in the same close analytical style, Collapse is the book Diamond was born to write.

His method investigates both fai
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-science
A book about environment, and how humans are exhausting the planets resources.

The author describes the following topics which were the main reason or contributed to the fall of societies in the past:

Deforestation and habitat destructions
Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
Water management problems
Effects of introduced species on native species
Increased per-capita impact of people

In addition to this, the following topics did not exis
From now on, every fledgling civilization should be issued with a little pamphlet outlining the dangers of deforestation. On the cover, there'd be a picture of a toppled Easter Island statue, with the caption, "Learn from our mistakes: if you chop down all your trees, your society will expire in an orgy of cannibalism. Also, you might want to go easy on the monoliths."

Collapse is a sobering book, but I'm just jaded enough that after about the tenth analysis of pollen readings from core samples,
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at how different societies have failed, I read this many years ago, but just noticed that Jared Diamond has a new book coming out which reminded me. Years later and I still think of some of the examples from time to time. While this is not a quick or easy read, it was so compelling I never put it down for very long.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Extraordinary in scope. Makes the news far more interesting even than it already was. However, I withhold star 5 because someone should have run the manuscript by me. Many awkward sentences. Too many sentences that aren't, quite. Or that aren't by a long shot. Penguin? Editors? Anyone? Such a noble and otherwise impressive undertaking deserves better care before reaching the public. But yes. A grand and very fine book indeed.
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Jared Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. He is Professor of Geography at UCLA and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has dedicated this book to his sons and future generations.

Other books in the series

Civilizations Rise and Fall (3 books)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
  • Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Articles featuring this book

"Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete ...
54 likes · 8 comments
“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.” 53 likes
“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.” 39 likes
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