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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or…

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005)

by Jared Diamond

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,881129339 (3.98)1 / 230

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English (120)  German (4)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
A nice, soft introduction to sustainability. Soft because it looks at sustainability from a perspective other than the common environmental one. ( )
  dpevers | Jun 13, 2015 |
There was a lot of information to digest in this book and in places it seemed like you were drowning in the minutia. However, if you stick through the narrative, it does take you somewhere in a very informative and illuminating way. What I really liked about the author was that he was not judgemental and tried to identify his biases along the way. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would like to read more from the author and more on this subject from others. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
Disappointed. ( )
  aegossman | Feb 25, 2015 |
Ugh -- when will Jared Diamond find an editor who tells him to cut, cut, cut? I'm sure there is some wonderful information and insight in this book, but a reader would need a machete to find it. ( )
1 vote amydelpo | Dec 9, 2014 |
An examination of ancient and modern societies that have undergone sudden collapse, and an evaluation of the environmental context in terms of population size, impact and sustainability. Diamond argues that he doesn't believe in environmental determinism - it's not geography or climate change that he believes knocked any of these societies over - it's our responses (or lack of them) when things start to go wrong. This is crucial as our modern population growth and environmental impact are accelerating.

My main issue with the book is length. It would have benefited from fewer case studies and less repetition. Ultimately, there wasn't enough differentiation between the issues within case studies, so this felt like retreading the same ground. Add in repetition within chapters - while this isn't a consistent problem, but is sporadically a big problem (I'm going to tell you about X; now I'll tell you about X in detail; having told you about X...) - and poor structure in others, and you have a recipe for intermittent boredom, which was almost enough for me to give up completely.

Which is a shame, because in between are chapters that are fascinating, horrifying, thought-provoking and interesting. I think a damn good edit could have improved the whole thing, packaged it up a bit better, and actually made the message stronger rather than weaker. I can't recommend it as it stands unless you're interested with a strong stomach; an abridged version should probably be required reading for everyone. ( )
3 vote imyril | Aug 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
Taken together, ''Guns, Germs, and Steel'' and ''Collapse'' represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual of our generation. They are magnificent books: extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in their ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past. I read both thinking what literature might be like if every author knew so much, wrote so clearly and formed arguments with such care. All of which makes the two books exasperating, because both come to conclusions that are probably wrong.
Mr. Diamond -- who has academic training in physiology, geography and evolutionary biology -- is a lucid writer with an ability to make arcane scientific concepts readily accessible to the lay reader, and his case studies of failed cultures are never less than compelling.
Human behaviour towards the ecosphere has become dysfunctional and now arguably threatens our own long-term security. The real problem is that the modern world remains in the sway of a dangerously illusory cultural myth. Like Lomborg, most governments and international agencies seem to believe that the human enterprise is somehow 'decoupling' from the environment, and so is poised for unlimited expansion. Jared Diamond's new book, Collapse, confronts this contradiction head-on. It is essential reading for anyone who is unafraid to be disillusioned if it means they can walk into the future with their eyes open.
added by hailelib | editNature, William Rees (Jan 6, 2005)
Diamond is at pains to stress the objectivity he has brought to bear on a sequence of collapse scenarios that often continue to generate serious controversy, and for the most part (until the final chapter) leaves it up to the reader to draw down any conclusions from these scenarios that may be relevant to our own societies today.

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diamond, Jaredprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eklöf, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command,
Tell that it's sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stampt on these lifeless things,
The hand that mockt them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

"Ozymandias," by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1817)
To Jack and Ann Hirschy, Jill Hirschy Eliel and John Eliel, Joyce Hirschy McDowell, Dick (1929-2003) and Margy Hirschy, and their fellow Montanans: guardians of Montana's big sky
First words
A few summers ago I visited two dairy farms, Huls Farm and Gardar Farm, which despite being located thousands of miles apart were still remarkably similar in their strengths and vulnerabilities.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Five point framework: "environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, friendly trade partners, and a society's responses to its environmental problems."

Contents: Prologue : a tale of two farms -- pt. 1: Modern Montana. Under Montana's big sky -- pt. 2: Past societies. Twilight at Easter -- The last people alive : Pitcairn and Henderson Islands -- The ancient ones : the Anasazi and their neighbors -- The Maya collapses -- The Viking prelude and fugues -- Norse Greenland's flowering -- Norse Greenland's end -- Opposite paths to success -- pt. 3: Modern societies. Malthus in Africa : Rwanda's genocide -- One island, two peoples, two histories : the Dominican Republic and Haiti -- China, lurching giant -- "Mining" Australia -- pt. 4: Practical lessons. Why do some societies make disastrous decisions? -- Big businesses and the environment : different conditions, different outcomes -- The world as a polder : what does it all mean to us today?

Includes bibliographical references (p. [529]-560) and index.  Illustrated.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143036556, Paperback)

Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is the glass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Guns, Germs, and Steel explained the geographic and environmental reasons why some human populations have flourished, Collapse uses the same factors to examine why ancient societies, including the Anasazi of the American Southwest and the Viking colonies of Greenland, as well as modern ones such as Rwanda, have fallen apart. Not every collapse has an environmental origin, but an eco-meltdown is often the main catalyst, he argues, particularly when combined with society's response to (or disregard for) the coming disaster. Still, right from the outset of Collapse, the author makes clear that this is not a mere environmentalist's diatribe. He begins by setting the book's main question in the small communities of present-day Montana as they face a decline in living standards and a depletion of natural resources. Once-vital mines now leak toxins into the soil, while prion diseases infect some deer and elk and older hydroelectric dams have become decrepit. On all these issues, and particularly with the hot-button topic of logging and wildfires, Diamond writes with equanimity.

Because he's addressing such significant issues within a vast span of time, Diamond can occasionally speak too briefly and assume too much, and at times his shorthand remarks may cause careful readers to raise an eyebrow. But in general, Diamond provides fine and well-reasoned historical examples, making the case that many times, economic and environmental concerns are one and the same. With Collapse, Diamond hopes to jog our collective memory to keep us from falling for false analogies or forgetting prior experiences, and thereby save us from potential devastations to come. While it might seem a stretch to use medieval Greenland and the Maya to convince a skeptic about the seriousness of global warming, it's exactly this type of cross-referencing that makes Collapse so compelling. --Jennifer Buckendorff

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? Diamond weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of historical-cultural narratives. Diamond traces a pattern of catastrophe, spelling out what happens when we squander our resources, when we ignore the signals our environment gives us.… (more)

» see all 9 descriptions

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