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

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9780143117001: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition

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

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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Review:

Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is the glass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Guns, Germs, and Steel explained the geographic and environmental reasons why some human populations have flourished, Collapse uses the same factors to examine why ancient societies, including the Anasazi of the American Southwest and the Viking colonies of Greenland, as well as modern ones such as Rwanda, have fallen apart. Not every collapse has an environmental origin, but an eco-meltdown is often the main catalyst, he argues, particularly when combined with society's response to (or disregard for) the coming disaster. Still, right from the outset of Collapse, the author makes clear that this is not a mere environmentalist's diatribe. He begins by setting the book's main question in the small communities of present-day Montana as they face a decline in living standards and a depletion of natural resources. Once-vital mines now leak toxins into the soil, while prion diseases infect some deer and elk and older hydroelectric dams have become decrepit. On all these issues, and particularly with the hot-button topic of logging and wildfires, Diamond writes with equanimity.

Because he's addressing such significant issues within a vast span of time, Diamond can occasionally speak too briefly and assume too much, and at times his shorthand remarks may cause careful readers to raise an eyebrow. But in general, Diamond provides fine and well-reasoned historical examples, making the case that many times, economic and environmental concerns are one and the same. With Collapse, Diamond hopes to jog our collective memory to keep us from falling for false analogies or forgetting prior experiences, and thereby save us from potential devastations to come. While it might seem a stretch to use medieval Greenland and the Maya to convince a skeptic about the seriousness of global warming, it's exactly this type of cross-referencing that makes Collapse so compelling. --Jennifer Buckendorff

From the Back Cover:

"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."
—The Seattle Times

"Extremely persuasive . . . replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics."
—The Boston Globe

"Extraordinary 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."
—The New York Times Book Review

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Book Description Penguin. 1 Paperback(s), 2011. soft. Book Condition: New. In the Pulitzer Prize–winning Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations were able to dominate much of the world. Here he probes the other side of the equation to consider what caused some of the world's great civilizations to collapse—and what can we learn from their fates. Diamond weaves an encompassing global thesis through a series of historical-cultural narratives, moving from the prehistoric Polynesian culture on Easter Island to the once-flourishing Native American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya, to the medieval Viking colony on Greenland, and finally to the modern world. He traces a fundamental pattern of catastrophe, spelling out what happens when we squander our resources, when we ignore the signals our environment gives us, and when we reproduce too fast or cut down too many trees. This 2011 edition of Diamond's 2005 study includes a new afterword by the author."A lucid writer with an ability to make arcane scientific concepts readily accessible to the lay reader, [the author's] case studies of failed cultures are never less than compelling. He presents some intriguing digressions about methods used by scientists and historians to diagnose the trajectory of long dead societies, and provides some provocative analyses of current environmental problems in Australia, the United States and China."—NYTimes 589. Bookseller Inventory # 71589

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Book Description Softcover. Book Condition: New. A magisterial effort packed with insight and written with clarity and enthusiasm. It's also the deal of the year---the equivalent of a year's college course by an engaging, brilliant professor, all for the price of a book."Who Hasn't Gazed upon the abandoned temples of Angkor Wat or the jungle-choked cities of the Maya and wondered, could the same fate happen to us? In this riveting book, Jared Diamond---whose Guns, Germs, and Steel revolutionized our understanding of history---explores how humankind's use and abuse of the environment reveal the truth behind the world's great collapses, from the Anasazi of North America to the Vikings of Greenland to modern Montana. What emerges is a fundamental pattern of environmental catastrophe---one whose warning signs surround us today and that we ignore at our peril. Blending the most recent scientific advances and a vast historical perspective 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."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."Extremely persuasive . replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics."Essential reading . Collapse [shows] that resilient societies are nimble ones, capable of long-term planning and of abandoning deeply entrenched but ultimately destructive core values and beliefs."There are hopeful messages in Collapse. With Diamond's help, maybe we'll learn to see our problems a little more clearly before we chop down that last palm tree."Extraordinarily panoramic .Diamond's complex historical web of how human communities either master their environment or become victims of them . takes a lifetime of research and, in normal English, leads the reader painstakingly where the media and intellectual journals have often refused to go. Bookseller Inventory # BAA-B-3663799

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