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How to Succeed and How to Fail: An International Primer

  • Mar 21, 2005
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Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at UCLA. Among his many awards are the Pulitzer Prize for "Guns, Germs and Steel," the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

In his earlier work, "Guns, Germs and Steel," Diamond extolled the rise of nations and explained his researched-based reasons for their success. His new book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," is something of a reverse sequel, exploring why extinct societies have failed.

Diamond examines now defunct nations applying five criteria: natural climate change, human exploitation of resources, allies, enemies, and the society's response when faced with collapse. "Collapsed" is both meticulously researched and creatively written, weaving together analysis and narrative into a template that explains one view of societal collapse.

Some see in "Collapse" politically correctness combined with a fatalistic attitude. Yet, his subtitle and his exposition both point to thoughtful reflection and potential correction. If, indeed, we can learn from history, then "Collapse" suggests that we start the dialogue. Though his thesis fails to convince his critics, his research and writing never fails to prompt discussion.

Reviewer: Dr. Robert W. Kellemen is the author of "Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction," "Soul Physicians: A Theology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction," and the forthcoming "Sacred Companions: A History of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction."

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review by . June 15, 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 . August 16, 2005
I read Diamond's new book before reading "Guns, Germs, and Steel," so I did not know what to expect. I was thoroughly impressed with Diamond's ability to muster evidence for a simple yet important thesis: that environmental degredation can cause societies to collapse.    One must make clear that he does not argue that ALL societies collapse from environmental degredation (as some reviewers seem to think). Rather, he is pointing out that the environment can be an important factor …
About the reviewer
Bob Kellemen ()
My passion is to equip people to change lives with Christ's changeless truth through Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.   … 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, ...

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ISBN-10: 0670033375
ISBN-13: 978-0670033379
Author: Jared Diamond
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Viking Adult
Date Published: December 27, 2005
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