Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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?
trees logged and removed are of course the biggest and most fire-resistant individuals, leaving behind smaller and more flammable trees. Another factor is that the U.S. Forest Service in the first decade of the 1900s adopted a policy of fire suppression (attempting to put out forest fires) for the obvious reasons that it didn't want valuable timber to go up in smoke, nor people's homes and lives to be threatened. The Forest Service's announced goal became, "Put out every forest fire by 10:00 A.M.
a few decades ago were not erect but thrown down, many of them toppled so as to break them deliberately at the neck. From the crater rim, I could see the nearest and largest platform (called Ahu Tongariki), whose 15 toppled statues the archaeologist Claudio Cristino described to me re-erecting in 1994 by means of a crane capable of lifting 55 tons. Even with that modern machinery, the task proved challenging for Claudio, because Ahu Tongariki's largest statue weighed 88 tons. Yet Easter Island's
deep, barely large enough for a few people to seek protection from the sun—contained debris testifying to former human habitation. Weisler found 18 such shelters, of which 15 were on the heavily used north, northeast, and northwest coasts near the only beaches, and the other three (all of them very cramped) were on the eastern or southern cliffs. Because Henderson is small enough that Weisler was able to survey essentially the entire coast, the 18 caves and rock shelters, plus one shelter on the
Island, the barren treeless landscape of Chaco Canyon today, with its deep-cut arroyos and sparse low vegetation of salt-tolerant bushes, astonishes us, because the canyon is now completely uninhabited except for a few National Park Service rangers' houses. Why would anyone have built an advanced city in that wasteland, and why, having gone to all that work of building it, did they then abandon it? When Native American farmers moved into the Chaco Canyon area around A.D. 600, they initially
the Roman Empire. Hence, until the Middle Ages, Scandinavia remained Europe's backwater. Yet Scandinavia possessed two sets of natural advantages awaiting ex- ploitation: the furs of northern forest animals, seal skins, and beeswax prized as luxury imports in the rest of Europe; and (in Norway as in Greece) a highly indented coastline, making travel by sea potentially faster than travel by land, and offering rewards to those who could develop seafaring techniques. Until the Middle Ages,