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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Jared Diamond

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8,495125362 (3.99)194
Member:gaskella
Title:Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive
Authors:Jared Diamond
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (2006), Paperback, 592 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (2005)

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» See also 194 mentions

English (116)  German (4)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (124)
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
Collapse is an ambitious book in which Jared Diamond analyzes the causes of the collapse of several ancient and not so ancient identifiable societies. It is also a cautionary tale for the modern developed “first” world in that this is the story of the consequences of environmental degradation in the form of deforestation, pollution, over-fishing, introduction of alien species, and other man-caused insults to our habitat. To be fair, he also identifies causes beyond the control of man, such as prolonged droughts. But a theme he repeats is that the response societies make to such environmental challenges is determinative of their fates.

Diamond’s most forceful writing is directed toward the “non-sustainable course” on which he believes the current globalized society is going. Even if over population can be limited, he argues that the environment could not support the increase in energy and natural resource usage that would occur if suddenly the living standards of the third world or even just China rose to those of the United States.

The book contains a lot of good history, written from a unique perspective. It is well-argued, if just a bit dry. It contains important lessons for national leaders and planners.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Jul 10, 2014 |
The Easter Island bit has been debunked. ( )
  bke | Mar 30, 2014 |
This is a book in desperate need of a good editor. It is an interesting study, seemingly repeated ad infinitum throughout each chapter. While I am certain of Mr. Diamond's intelligence and grasp of the subject at hand, his writing style annoyed the hell out me;discussing conversations with "friends" and seemingly presenting them as scientific studies. The only saving grace of this back was the final section where he offers examples of how to correct modern day environmental devastation (though the final chapter reverts to form and is a hell of a slog to get through). ( )
  hhornblower | Dec 29, 2013 |
Interesting subject and sheer determination carried me halfway through this book. In the end boredom got the best of me and I finally gave up halfway through. There are many authors that can take even the most mundane history and make it enjoyable and accessible to everyone. Kurlansky's "Salt" for instance. Unfortunately, for me Mr.Diamond is not one of those authors. So I'm not saying this is a bad book I'm just not sure it's for everyone.
1 vote flippinpages | Nov 3, 2013 |
Gets a bit repetitive. With a good editor I think it could have lost 100 pages without much impact. I'm not keen on that "Choose" in the title -- it seems to me that some of these societies didn't have a lot of alternatives.

Get this book into the hands of all those "cornucopians" who think that a free market can get you out of any looming disaster. ( )
  nog | Sep 18, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (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 jlelliott | 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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Epigraph
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)
Dedication
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:44 -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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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