Results 1-10 of 11
User Review - Flag as inappropriate

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.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

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 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I tried to read this despite the length. I just could not find it interesting. Might just be the subject matter not coinciding with my personal interests. The writing is okay. It is difficult to keep an audience engaged with some of his topics but he successfully integrates applicable stories to his arguments. 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

*norwegian explorere Thor Heyerdahl
p155
i put 'in the short run' in quotation marks, because the anasazi did survive in chaco canyon for about 600 years, considerably longer than the duration of
european occupation anywhere in the new world since columbus's arrival in a.d. 1492. during their existence, those various southwestern native americans experimented with half-a-dozen alternative types of economies. it took many centureis to discover that, among htose economies, only the pueblo economy was sustainable 'in the long run,' i.e., for at least a thousand years. that should make us modern americans hesitate to be too confident yet about the sustainaiblity of our first world economy, especially when we reflect how quickly chaco society collapsed after its peak in teh decade a.d. 1110-1120, and how implausible the risk of collapse would have seemed to chacoans of that decade.
p349
winston churchill used to describe russia 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma'
*joseph tainter 'the colapse of complex societies'
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Fascinating read. As good as Gun's Germs and Steel.

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

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.

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Under the guise of environmental science, geography, and geology, Jared Diamond here provides a direct view of how the economy works-by competition for the consumtion of scarce resources. In detailing the choices of societies, Diamond offers a fair view of the system that takes into account counterarguments, and provides potential solutions for our current competitions based on the ability of the environment to regenerate itself. Abiding by the old cliche that "those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it," Diamond offers useful examples and analogizes them to dilemmas in the current world.
Diamond's book uses such detailed examples and provides glimpses into worlds that are so foreign to the modern (especially American) reader that I found it hard to read and digest more than ten pages in an hour, and had to take frequent breaks. There is so much evidence which Diamond uses to substantiate his claims that I was overwhelmed, and enjoyably so. Quite to my amazement, I was able to envision these places as they were at a time, and as they are reincarnated in different parts of the modern world; I was able to envision the people and their societies, their systems and their structures.
All told, this is a fabulous expose on the topic of resources and consumption, and one which I would and now do highly recommend. Beware, however-a scientist's language can be ambiguous or vague. That's the worst I can say about this book.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Collapse represents the type of big-picture thinking that our world will increasingly need as the Earth grows smaller, the population grows bigger, and technology and industry consume us all.

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

From: http://www.sindark.com/2009/06/15/collapse-how-societies-choose-to-fail-or-succeed/
In marked contrast to his previous book, I found Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or
Succeed to be a consistently compelling and worthwhile read. He begins and ends it with discussions of environmental challenges in the modern world – firstly, in Montana and secondly globally – and fills out the book with descriptions of past societies that failed for primarily environmental reasons. These include Easter Island, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the Anasazi of North America, the Maya, and the Vikings of Greenland. He sketches out a ‘five factor’ framework for evaluating how both internally and externally induced environmental changes affect societies: environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbours, friendly trade partners, and how a society chooses to respond to its environmental problems. Diamond makes a strong case that the framework is relevant to contemporary global society.
Diamond makes some good points about psychology. For instance, about how people who become used to abundance can forget that they are benefitting from a temporary blip above the trend line, and can end up getting hammered when things return to normal. Also, how the construction of status symbols can develop a momentum of its own, and carry on well beyond the point where it would be objectively sensible to continue. He also describes some of the many perverse subsidies that have been established by well-meaning rulers, such as the former obligation of Australian landowners to clear native vegetation, ensuring the worsening of their erosion problems.
While Diamond concludes that twelve different environmental problems are of sufficient importance to threaten the future of our society, he doesn’t perform much comparative analysis on their relative urgency and severity. Indeed, a case could be made that he seriously underestimates climate change, when compared to the others. Not only is the need to start mitigating urgent, due to long lags in the climate system, but the impacts of further emissions are irreversible to an extent that is not shared by all the other problems he lists.
While Diamond does an excellent job of chronicling reasons for historical societal failures – and argues convincingly that an appreciation of this history is important for understanding our current situation – he doesn’t do much of the work of considering what societal changes are necessary now. In particular, his assertion that a deep change in values may be required doesn’t extend to listing which of our values are problematic, or what changes to them might help society overcome the problems he anticipates will threaten it in coming decades.
Diamond’s final position is a very forceful one: for a constellation of reasons, our present global society is deeply unsustainable, and much of economic ‘growth’ is illusory. We are ‘mining’ renewable resources, in a way that will destroy them in the long term. As such, we are not earning a living off the ‘interest’ accrued to natural capital – we are cutting into the capital itself, dooming future generations to a worsened standard of living, or worse, unless we change our ways. That, plus the lesson that successful past societies were undone by failures to heed such lessons, is information that needs to be more widely absorbed and appreciated within our society.
 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

The history was interesting. Jared Diamond goes on and on about the Greenland Norse. Their lifestyle was difficult, and I find it amazing that they fought the good fight for so long. His is descriptions of how civilizations impacted their environment and vice versa are compelling and informative as well. I am happy I read it and would have given it 7 of 10 stars if given the option. 


User ratings

5 stars
78
4 stars
58
3 stars
33
2 stars
7
1 star
3

5 stars - 33
4 stars - 30
3 stars - 14
1 star - 1
Unrated - 12

Editorial reviews - 0
User reviews - 11