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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeedby Jared Diamond
Synopses & ReviewsPlease note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.
"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
Who has looked on the ancient Maya or classical Mediterranean cities and not wondered why they were abandoned? Or whether they hold a message for us? In this fascinating book, Jared Diamond seeks to understand the fates of past societies that collapsed for ecological reasons, combining the most important policy debate of our generation with the romance and mystery of lost worlds. Citizens of first world societies look around and tend not to see signs of imminent ecological collapse: the supermarkets are full of food; water gushes from our faucets; we live amidst trees and green grass. Actually, though, many past civilizations — with far smaller populations and less potent destructive technologies than those of today — have inadvertently committed ecological suicide: the Polynesian societies on Easter Island and other Pacific islands or the Anasazi civiliation, for example.
Ecocide asks why some societies make disastrous decisions, and how can we in the modern world learn better problem solving? Ecocide is an ecological history of human societies that considers why societies in some regions have been more vulnerable than those in other regions, and also compares the trajectories of pastcivilizations with likely trajectories of our own. Why did Greenland fail where Iceland succeeded? What links Rwanda and Australia? What can contemporary Montana learn from the ancient Mayans and modern Chinese?
"In his Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, geographer Diamond laid out a grand view of the organic roots of human civilizations in flora, fauna, climate and geology. That vision takes on apocalyptic overtones in this fascinating comparative study of societies that have, sometimes fatally, undermined their own ecological foundations. Diamond examines storied examples of human economic and social collapse, and even extinction, including Easter Island, classical Mayan civilization and the Greenland Norse. He explores patterns of population growth, overfarming, overgrazing and overhunting, often abetted by drought, cold, rigid social mores and warfare, that lead inexorably to vicious circles of deforestation, erosion and starvation prompted by the disappearance of plant and animal food sources. Extending his treatment to contemporary environmental trouble spots, from Montana to China to Australia, he finds today's global, technologically advanced civilization very far from solving the problems that plagued primitive, isolated communities in the remote past. At times Diamond comes close to a counsel of despair when contemplating the environmental havoc engulfing our rapidly industrializing planet, but he holds out hope at examples of sustainability from highland New Guinea's age-old but highly diverse and efficient agriculture to Japan's rigorous program of forest protection and, less convincingly, in recent green consumerism initiatives. 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. Photos. Agents, John Brockman and Katinka Matson. Forecast: With a 12-city author tour and a 200,000-copy first printing, this BOMC main selection and History Book Club featured alternate is poised to compete with its ground-breaking predecessor." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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." Booklist
"[Collapse] may well become a seminal work....It will challenge and make you think — long after you have turned that last 500th-plus page." Robert S. Desowitz, Scientific American
"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." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"In a world that celebrates live journalism, we are increasingly in need of big-picture authors like Jared Diamond....In his extraordinarily panoramic Collapse, he moves his wide lens to yet another telling phenomenon: failed nations, of both the distant and the recent past." Robert D. Kaplan, The Washington Post
"Though abuse of the environment is the common theme running through Collapse, the book is replete with other fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes....Any reader of Collapse will leave the book convinced that we must take steps now to save our planet." Boston Globe
"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..." Gregg Easterbrook, The New York Times Book Review
"Diamond's most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that don't just educate and provoke, but entertain....Diamond vividly writes of countries in current decline..." Seattle Times
"In a book characterized by good writing, several chapters stand out....Diamond packs the book with plenty of examples of how hubris, racism and misplaced belief in cultural superiority lead to disaster." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Macrohistory that leads to sweeping conclusions is unfashionable in 2005. That Diamond can be unfashionable, cerebral, unafraid of ridicule and a best-selling author in this sound-bite, video-game era is downright amazing." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Perhaps Collapse will...do something to shake Americans out of their collective apathy. If not, it might at least help future generations understand what the person who cut down the last tree on the North American continent was thinking as he did it." San Francisco Chronicle
"Collapse is an important book that raises profound and troubling questions. It's also a demanding book, densely packed with material and no light read. But Diamond writes well enough to make the journey enjoyable." Houston Chronicle
"For a writer of Diamond's stature and acclaim to produce such a frustrating book is a squandered opportunity and a waste of a precious resource." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Diamond keeps his most important promise, providing a page-turner filled with well-patterned information for a thoughtful reader. Each tale is dramatic, like a novel about people careening toward hazards they ought to see, but willfully ignore." San Diego Union-Tribune
Book News Annotation:
Diamond (geography, UCLA) casts a wide net in the realms of history, geography, and science to address questions essential to humanity's continued survival. Forty-two b&w plates, grouped together, illustrate the scope and some of the examples of his narrative: the deforested landscapes of Easter Island, Chaco Canyon, and Haiti; the forests of Japan--preserved because of top-down management initiated four centuries ago; victims of the 1994 genocidal killings in Rwanda; air and water pollution in China; destruction of environment by sheep and rabbits in Australia; President John F. Kennedy and advisors deliberating during the Cuban Missile Crisis (evidence of group decision-making informed by past mistakes); oil and chemical disasters in the North Sea and in Bhopal; and a gated community, urban sprawl, and smog in Los Angeles. Concluding pages are devoted to reasons for hope.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In his million-copy bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why 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?
Read by Christopher Murney.
About the Author
Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. Among Dr. Diamond's many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
Table of Contents
List of Maps xiii
Prologue A Tale of Two Farms 1
Part One MODERN MONTANA 25
Chapter 1 Under Montana?s Big Sky 27
Part Two PAST SOCIETIES 77
Chapter 2 Twilight at Easter 79
Chapter 3 The Last People Alive: Pitcairn and Henderson Islands 120
Chapter 4 The Ancient Ones: The Anasazi and Their Neighbors 136
Chapter 5 The Maya Collapses 157
Chapter 6 The Viking Prelude and Fugues 178
Chapter 7 Norse Greenland?s Flowering 211
Chapter 8 Norse Greenland?s End 248
Chapter 9 Opposite Paths to Success 277
Part Three MODERN SOCIETIES 309
Chapter 10 Malthus in Africa: Rwanda?s Genocide 311
Chapter 11 One Island, Two Peoples, Two Histories: The Dominican Republic and Haiti 329
Chapter 12 China, Lurching Giant 358
Chapter 13 ?Mining? Australia 378
Part Four PRACTICAL LESSONS 417
Chapter 14 Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions? 419
Chapter 15 Big Businesses and the Environment: Different Conditions, Different Outcomes 441
Chapter 16 The World as a Polder: What Does It All Mean to Us Today? 486
Further Readings 529
Illustration Credits 576
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