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The book provides an excellent selection of cases of collapse or survival of societies around the world, with a wealth of data and stimulating analysis as to what factors contribute to the success or otherwise of human settlements. The examples of Easter Island (by now a classic for students of the environmental impact of civilisation) and the Greenland Vikings were particularly interesting, especially when compared with other cases presented by Diamond where human settlements instead succeeded on other tropical islands or in Iceland.
The main flaw in the book is its weak set of conclusions. Rather that reaching very general and ultimate banal conclusions such as that citizens should put pressure on governments to highlight the environmental problems of today especially climate change, Diamond might have done better to cut his book short of the final pages. They almost appear to be an afterthought, or a tribute to the "political correctness" of the age. Or perhaps the published insisted that Diamond add some content that might make the book more "relevant" to the current debate on the environment.
One consideration that Diamond might have made, which appears to emerge from many of the cases studies in his book, is the fact that those societies that succeeded were sometimes just lucky, but more often, were in possession of knowledge of the environmental problems surrounding them. Conversely, the Easter Islanders appear not to have had a sufficient degree of knowledge to realise the consequences of the massive deforestation that they undertook in a particularly fragile ecosystem.
Thus, one conclusion that might be made as a result of the cases presented in the book, is that today we humans must make sure that our growing knowledge of the environmental issues surrounding us translate promptly into adequate responses.
But despite these weaknesses, the book is a very interesting reading, is thought provoking as well as being very well written and an entertaining read.
 

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A good book on why some of the ancient civilizations like the Incas, Anasi, Easter Island, Norse etc failed and some survived. An interesting mix of environment, politics, human behaviour, history, archeology ... the first half is very interesting, the second half is more on current problems with environment and will we as a human race survive, at times is repetitious or too detailed 

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This book did a great job synthesizing lots of data into an interesting read. It can be long at times, and some chapters dragged, but the information was very well-presented. I don't agree with his politics, but he did keep me interested.


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