In his million-copy bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. Now in this brilliant companion volume, Diamond probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates?
As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Moving 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, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe. Environmental damage, climate change, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of these societies, but other societies found solutions and persisted. 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?
Read by Christopher Murney.
|Publisher:||Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated|
|Edition description:||Abridged, 8 CDs, 9 hours|
|Product dimensions:||5.22(w) x 5.82(h) x 1.05(d)|
|Age Range:||18 - 17 Years|
About the Author
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. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Among Dr. Diamond’s 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 Rockefeller University. He has published more than two hundred articles and his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
What People are Saying About This
"Mr. Diamond...is a lucid writer with an ability to make arcane scientific concepts readiily accesible to the lay reader, and his case studies of failed cultures are never less than compelling."The New York Times
"...Collapse is a magisterial effort packed with insight and written with clarity and enthusiasm."Businessweek
"Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual of our generation. They are magnificent books: extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in their ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past. I read both thinking what literature might be like if every author knew so much, wrote so clearly and formed arguments with such care."Gregg Easterbrook, The New York Times Book Review
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pessimistic, slow, too detailed at the beginning which is why its not a 5 star. His ability to explore past cultures, climates and events is eye opening and thought provoking. There are more optimistic views later in the book. A must read.
The analogy of how societies collapse and how communities collapse was unavoidable for me. If I were an environmental wonk, I would certainly give Jared Diamond's 2004 classic five stars for the weaving of history, science and great storytelling into a compelling read. But since I was expecting more than an ecological lens, I came away with a feeling of being slightly short-changed in trying to fully understand the subtitle: "how societies choose to fail or succeed." Having said that, I must say that Diamond certainly gave us, as he calls it, a "road map" to better understand society/community collapse from varied perspectives. This is perhaps most topically done by his discussion midway through the book of the contrasting realities on the island of Hispanola between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He demonstrates the sharp dichotomy between the two societies even before the recent earthquake, which has devastated Haiti. Positioning himself on the mountain ridge which forms part of the border between the two countries, he describes the view west into Haiti as one of denuded forests and barren landscape. By simply turning 180 degrees you can see the lush forest of the Dominican Republic. In answering the question -- How can two societies sharing the same island have such dramatically different outcomes? -- Jared Diamond gives glimpses of the applicability of his frame beyond the environmental. One of the most compelling images Diamond summons for us is the thought of what would have gone through the mind of the native felling that last palm tree on Easter Island -- once a island rich in old growth palm and other forests and now a treeless wind-scape. Diamond moves us from the retrospective question: what was he thinking? to an excellent description of how this last act was not one of individual intention or ignorance but rather the last piece in a failure of group decision making. These failures in group decision making rest broadly on either conflict of interest or group dynamics. For which the author describes three factors: (1) groups fail to anticipate a problem before it arises; (2) groups fail to perceive a problem that has already arisen, and, finally, (3) groups fail to even attempt to solve a problem even after it has been perceived. Though the author is nearly silent on many of the contemporary issues (beyond climate change) to which this framing would be instructive -- education, health care, terrorism, economics -- that doesn't prevent his readers from the application. And I think communities would be well served by doing just that.