In his million-copy bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
examined how andwhy Western civilizations developed the technologies and
immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. Now in this
brilliant companion volume, Diamond probes the other side of the equation: What
caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and
what can we learn from their fates?
As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond weaves an all-encompassing
global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives.
Moving from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American
civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking
colony on Greenland, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe.
Environmental damage, climate change, rapid population growth, and unwise
political choices were all factors in the demise of these societies, but other
societies found solutions and persisted. Similar problems face us today and have
already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are
trying to cope in innovative ways. Despite our own society's apparently
inexhaustible wealth and unrivaled political power, ominous warning signs have
begun to emerge even in ecologically robust areas like Montana.
Brilliant, illuminating, and immensely absorbing, Collapse is destined
to take its place as one of the essential books of our time, raising the urgent
question: How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?
Diamond's bottom line is clear - for all our technology and electronic widgets, we are still bound to nature and reliant on it. As always, you can judge this book for yourself by reading a substantial excerpt at BookBrowse, which will give you an understanding of the book's overall premise sufficient to hold your own in conversation on the subject with most people! (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Scientific American - Robert S Desowitz, emeritus professor of tropical
Collapse is a big book, 500-plus pages. It
may well become a seminal work, although its plea for societal survival through
ecological conservation is rather like preaching to the choir. It is not a
page-turner, especially for slow readers of short attention span (like this
reviewer). Some of Diamond's case studies may be overkilled by
overdetail. The last section, on practical lessons, seems disconnected from the
central Collapse story and almost constitutes a separate book. But, having
discharged the reviewer's obligation to be critical, my recommendation would
definitely be to read the book. It will challenge and make you think—long
after you have turned that last 500th-plus page.
Diamond is a brilliant expositor of everything from anthropology to
zoology, providing a lucid background of scientific lore to support a
stimulating, incisive historical account of these many declines and falls.
Readers will find his book an enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the
indissoluble links that bind humans to nature.
Booklist - Brad Hooper
Drawing examples from ... Polynesian culture on Easter Island to
the Viking outposts in Greenland to the Mayan civilization in Central America,
the author finds the fundamental pattern of catastrophe that is
apparent in these populations that once flourished and then collapsed. The
template he holds up is a construct based on five factors, including
environmental damage, climate change, and hostile neighbors. In addition,
Diamond casts his critical but acute and inclusive gaze on the issue of why
civilizations fail to see collapse coming. A thought-provoking book containing
not a single page of dense prose.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cristopher Lesniak
While this book echoes themes from his previous work, it ambitiouslly takes on the questiion that social scientists and historians have been pondering for some time; "What causes societies to fail?" Diamond certainlly provides... Read More
"I've set myself the modest task of trying to explain the broad pattern
of human history, on all the continents, for the last 13,000 years. Why did
history take such different evolutionary courses for peoples of different
continents? This problem has fascinated me for a long time, but it's now ripe
for a new synthesis because of recent advances in many fields seemingly remote
from history, including molecular biology, plant and animal genetics and
biogeography, archaeology, and linguistics....."- Jared Diamond
Read the full text of Diamond's talk to
The Edge Foundation
- an interesting looking organization that 'seeks to promote inquiry into and
discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as
well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society'.
Its membership includes Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins plus many other important
Join one of our country's foremost activist thinkers, Frances Moore Lappé, and her daughter, Anna, on a trip around this small planet. This follow up to The Next Diet For A Small Planet helps each of us find new courage to trust ourselves and choose the world we want.
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