Carolyn's Reviews > Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Collapse by Jared Diamond
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's review
Mar 01, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in May, 2008

(this book is bigger than I thought...)

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 scientists measured tree rings or pollen molecules to arrive at the specific conclusions that Diamond uses as evidence. (While important to the overall thesis, this is the section that I believe can be skimmed the most.)

The section on modern societies was excellent. He does a great job of discussing the major environmental pressures on our planet by highlighting four societies: Rwanda, Dominican Republic/Haiti, China, and Australia.

If pressed for time, I suggest reading Part 4, Practical Lessons (it's helpful to have the background of the rest of the book for this section, but the ecologically savvy among us can certainly get by without losing too much comprehension).

I rated the content at 4.5 because there's one rubs me wrong. In his chapter on big business vs. the environment, he talks about two oil companies in New Guinea: a subsidiary of Chevron, and a more local operation. He raves about the environmental responsibility Chevron displays in this area, saying that they learned from the Exxon Valdez disaster and know the importance of creating minimal impact and sustainability. He fails to mention, though, that ChevronTexaco abandoned their operations in Ecuador in 1992, leaving an ecological nightmare for the locals? Sure, this subsidiary had nothing to do with Ecuador, as their association is only through several mergers that have taken place in recent years, but I think I'm just bothered by the way he portrays the Chevron Corporation as being entirely responsible for their operations (which may be true in New Guinea) without pointing out that the whole corporation is not perfect. That, of course, makes me wonder what other information may or may not have been included in his analyses. Am I reading into this detail? Probably. I just want the grey areas to be pointed out!

The point remains that his central thesis has merit regarding the environmental situation we find ourselves in currently, and I think it's an important essay to prompt intelligent discussion on the problems and solutions we face. Originally published in 2005, it's interesting to see how the situation has changed since the book (like gas prices?), but it's definitely new enough to be quite relevant to our society today.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by travelerblue (new)

travelerblue Let me know how you like this one. I never could finish his first one. (It is probably around here somewhere.)

message 2: by travelerblue (new)

travelerblue Guess I'll have to try to read this one. Thanks for the review!

message 3: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily Thank you for this review. Very thorough and academic and stuff :-)

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