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The Green Group B.C 2009 > "Collapse" by Jared Diamond

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message 1: by M (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Geographer at the University of California at Los Angeles, Jared Diamond is a biologist and physiologist who published his third book on the future of the world.
By connecting an impressive archival work and foresight, Jared Diamond illuminates the questions we ask on the climate, environment, resources.

From Wikipedia:

"In the prologue, Diamond summarizes Collapse in one paragraph, as follows.

“ This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapses to which environmental problems contribute. My previous book (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies), had applied the comparative method to the opposite problem: the differing rates of buildup of human societies on different continents over the last 13,000 years. In the present book focusing on collapses rather than buildups, I compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbors, political institutions, and other "input" variables postulated to influence a society's stability. The "output" variables that I examine are collapse or survival, and form of the collapse if collapse does occur. By relating output variables to input variables, I aim to tease out the influence of possible input variables on collapses. ”

Diamond lists eight factors which have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:

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

Further, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:

Human-caused climate change
Buildup of toxins in the environment
Energy shortages
Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity

"Collapse" is divided into four parts.

Part One describes the environment of the US state of Montana, focusing on the lives of several individuals in order to put a human face on the interplay between society and the environment.

Part Two describes past societies that have collapsed. Diamond uses a "framework" when considering the collapse of a society, consisting of five "sets of factors" that may affect what happens to a society: environmental damage, climatic change, hostile neighbors, loss of trading partners, and the society's own responses to its environmental problems. The societies Diamond describes are:
Easter Island (a society that collapsed entirely due to environmental damage)
The Polynesians of Pitcairn Island (environmental damage and loss of trading partners)
The Anasazi of southwestern North America (environmental damage and climate change)
The Maya of Central America (environmental damage, climate change, and hostile neighbours)
The Greenland Norse (environmental damage, loss of trading partners, climate change, hostile neighbours and unwillingness to change in the face of social collapse)

Finally, Diamond discusses three past success stories:

The tiny Pacific island of Tikopia
The agricultural success of central New Guinea
The Tokugawa-era forest management in Japan.

Part Three examines modern societies, including:
The collapse into genocide of Rwanda, caused in part by overpopulation
The failure of Haiti compared with the relative success of its neighbour on Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic
The problems facing a developing nation, China
The problems facing a First World nation, Australia

Part Four concludes the study by considering such subjects as business and globalization, and "extracts practical lessons for us today" (p. 22 – 23). Specific attention is given to the polder model as a way Dutch society has addressed its challenges and the "top-down" and most importantly "bottom-up" approaches that we must take now that "our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course" (p. 498) in order to avoid the "12 problems of non-sustainability" that he expounds throughout the book, and reviews in the final chapter. The results of this survey are perhaps why Diamond sees "signs of hope" nevertheless and arrives at a position of "cautious optimism" for all our futures".

message 2: by Melissa (last edited Feb 24, 2009 08:54AM) (new)

Melissa | 4 comments I'm in the same boat as April, a busy mom with lots of things going on-kids, classes, homework, housework, etc. ;) I agree, there is only so much energy left at the end of the day. I own the book and have been meaning to read it, so this is a good kick start for me.

I know it will take a while longer, but my suggestion is that we read and discuss one or two chapters at a time. The book is massive and kind of "dense" reading, so we might get more people involved if we break it down into smaller bites?

I'll start reading chapter one and hopefully someone will be up for discussing it in 1-2 weeks?

message 3: by M (last edited Feb 24, 2009 11:06AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments I think that's a great idea ! Thanks for your post, Melissa. Your suggestion is really interesting.
I'll create a topic for each part's discussion of the book - part 2 to part 4.
We are here in the discussion thread of the "Prologue" and the "Part 1".

"Collapse" is a massive book . I'm currently reading it and I organized my reading by dates.

- Prologue - (p. 1 to 23)
- From 02/14 to 02/18 - Part 1 (p. 25 to 75)
- From 02/19 to 03/08 - Part 2 (p. 79 to 308)
- From 03/09 to 03/18 - Part 3 (p.309 to 416)
- From 03/19 to 03/31 - Part 4 (p.419 to 560)

We're waiting for your post for discussing in 1 or 2 weeks!

message 4: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 4 comments Sounds great. I will post my thoughts on the Prologue and Part One as soon as I get through it!

I have to say I'm very glad to have people who care about these issues to read and discuss with. I belong to a face-to-face Book Club too, but its geared toward fiction and lighter reading. I am glad to have a forum for "green" book discussions.

message 5: by M (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Thanks for that Melissa !

message 6: by M (last edited Mar 01, 2009 02:48PM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Well, I finished to read the Part 2. I'll discuss the next week from the "Prologue" to "Part 2".

message 7: by Grégoire (new)

Grégoire | 18 comments I finished Guns, Germs... a few weeks ago. It was very interesting, notably for his description of natural unequalities between regions. I've read elsewhere there is a "ecological determinism" movement in the US, is it true? Do you think Diamond is among them?

message 8: by Dan (new)

Dan Pettus | 5 comments I wish I would have discovered this group a couple of months ago! Collapse is one of my favorite environmental books of all time. I'm a college environmental science instructor and high school science teacher... look forward to discussing books with you all in the future!

message 9: by M (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Thanks Dan. Welcome! I hope that you will find interesting subjects in this International "Green" Group.
Environmental is one of the greatest Challenge of our common future on Earth. We have to learn how to build it!

message 10: by M (last edited Aug 01, 2010 06:36AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments " Civilization Collapsed After Cutting Key Trees "

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