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Great book

  • May 21, 2010
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A decade ago I read Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning classic "Guns, Germs and Steel". I have just completed reading this recent work by him. Like his previous work, both take the long view of human history, except this one looks specifically at how different societies have collapsed or endured. The author examines about a dozen societies across human history, presents the evidence from various sources such as written records, pollen records, weather data from tree rings, dated human remains, etc..., and postulates how these societies endured or collapsed. The focus is on the environment, and how each of these societies exploited their environment to the point that it could not sustain the local human population any more. Factors examined include overfishing, soil erosion due to overgrazing by livestock, cutting down of forests, and failure to adopt hunting/farming practices of aboriginal people. The societies examined include 20th century China, the Mayan Empire, the US state of Montana since the Industrial Revolution, and the Greenland Norse colony that was set up and then abandoned by the Vikings, and post-colonial Australia; hence a diverse breadth. Each chapter is self-enclosed and could be read independently of the other chapters, which makes the book quite easy to read in parts. The subject matter is a good synthesis of hard science such as geology and climatology, plus the social sciences; i.e. history, economics, and archaelogy.

I would have given this book 5 stars, except it does not even mention, let alone examine, the collapse of mankind's greatest society, the Roman Empire. Also, for a book written by an American, the author neglects to mention more pertinent examples for the American audience, such as the fossil fuel industry's impact on the US Gulf Coast, and the decline of the North Atlantic whaling industry over the past 300 years. Overall, an insightful and very readable book; I just wish it had covered more famous cases.

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More Collapse: How Societies Choose... reviews
review by . November 02, 2012
This Springsteen lyric came to mind when reading Diamond's environmental history of major societal collapses.  From his study of ancient collapses like Easter Island, the Mayan empire of Central America, and Norse Greenland, Diamond draws principles that determine when and why societies fail to adapt to environmental changes.  Ignoring their lessons, says Diamond, may leave even us wealthy first world citizens "the privilege of being the last to starve" (p. 520).   …
review by . December 03, 2007
Diamond has followed the triumph of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies(W.W. Norton & Co., 1997) with another brilliant take on history, this one with more profound implications concerning our imminent future. Read in conjunction with Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury, and in light of recent climatological data, one can't escape the feeling that we are in very deep trouble. In a recent interview …
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Newton Ooi ()
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Hi everyone, so here is the rundown of me. I like reading and writing, nonfiction for both. I love movies, especially original ones. I like nonfiction music, eating out, and basketball. I love to travel, … more
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Jared Diamond'sCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeedis the glass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winningGuns, Germs, and Steel. WhileGuns, Germs, and Steelexplained the geographic and environmental reasons why some human populations have flourished,Collapseuses 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 ofCollapse, 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 ...

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ISBN-10: 0143036556
ISBN-13: 978-0143036555
Author: Jared Diamond
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Penguin
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