Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition

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Penguin, Jan 4, 2011 - History - 608 pages
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In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization. Diamond is also the author of Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis


Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies around the world, but some found solutions and persisted. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe, and weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Collapse moves 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. 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?

 

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How can such bad news be so entertaining

User Review  - marsattacks28 - Overstock.com

The choices we have made as a people have led man down a precarious path now more than ever. Dwindling resources overcrowded cities and a shortview perspective have put man on the precipice of fate. A must read. Read full review

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Growing up in America at the end of the Cold War, I should be forgiven for getting the impression that only an act of nuclear-powered global self-immolation stood between us and a glorious future of eternal progress, that only two possibilities existed: a future technological paradise and a blighted Mad Max wasteland. "Collapse" by Jared Diamond serves as antidote. Its litany of collapsed civilizations proves that only hubris allows us to imagine that our own civilization will go on forever or that it takes something as dramatic as nuclear war to bring it to an end. Diamond tries to shed light on how it will happen to us by examining the history of collapsed civilizations such as the Mayans, the Anasazi, the Greenland Norse, and the Easter Islanders. We may be done in by something as banal as soil erosion or over-dependence on imported resources. He manages to be surprisingly even-handed when he handles topics like climate change that have become fodder for American politics.  

Contents

Under Montanas Big Sky
27
Twilight at Easter
79
The Last People Alive Pitcairn and Henderson Islands
120
The Ancient Ones The Anasazi and Their Neighbors
136
The Maya Collapses
157
The Viking Prelude and Fugues
178
Norse Greenlands Flowering
211
Norse Greenlands End
248
China Lurching Giant
358
Mining Australia
378
Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous
419
Big Businesses and the Environment
441
The World as a Polder What Does It All Mean
486
Angkors Rise and Fall
526
Acknowledgments
540
Index
575

Opposite Paths to Success
277
Malthus in Africa Rwandas Genocide
311
One Island Two Peoples Two Histories
329
Illustration Credits
590
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About the author (2011)

Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan’s Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by The Rockefeller University. His previous books include Why Is Sex Fun?, The Third Chimpanzee, Collapse, The World Until Yesterday, and Guns, Germs, and Steel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

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