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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeedby Jared Diamond
Synopses & Reviews
"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
"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
"[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
In his runaway bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond brilliantly examined the circumstances that allowed Western civilizations to dominate much of the world. Now he probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to fall into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? Using a vast historical and geographical perspective ranging from Easter Island and the Maya to Viking Greenland and modern Montana, Diamond traces a fundamental pattern of environmental catastropheaone whose warning signs can be seen in our modern world and that we ignore at our peril. Blending the most recent scientific advances into a narrative that is impossible to put down, Collapse exposes the deepest mysteries of the past even as it offers hope for the future.
aDiamondas most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that donat just educate and provoke, but entertain.a aThe Seattle Times
aExtremely persuasive . . . replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes and] haunting statistics.a aThe Boston Globe
aExtraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in its] ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past.a aThe New York Times Book Review
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.
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