"Collapse" - By Jared Diamond

I'm not exactly sure, but I think that "Collapse" by Jared Diamond has been under the 'Current Reading' heading for nearly 6 months, possibly longer. I actually finished the book months ago but I kept forgetting to write a review or putting off writing a review so I left "Collapse" up until I got around to it.

By now, I couldn't write a meaningful review of the book if I had too. I'm going to write one anyway.

"Collapse" examined the environmental reasons for the collapses of various societies including the Mayan civilization in Mexico, the Vikings in Greenland, and the Polynesian societies on Easter Island and the Pitcairn and Henderson Islands. Diamond also provided explanations of the ways that societies recognized and avoided environmental collapse in Japan at the time of Tokugawa, the New Guinea highlands and others which I can't recall.

Diamond arranged his examination of collapsing societies around the five stress points that cause societies to fail: Environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, loss of friendly trade partners, and a society's responses to its environmental problems. Any one, though usually two or more can cause a society to collapse. Obviously, the more problems a society has the more difficult it is to avoid collapse. (The presence of hostile neighbors, climate change, environmental damage and a poor response to environmental problems is usually a more dire situation than just the loss of a trading partner - though not always.)

"Collapse" isn't just a collections of facts about the past. Diamond provides evidence of the problems we face. He exposes our own society as no more permanent than that of the Maya.

Diamond finds evidence of the coming collapse of our society in Montana, which he examines extensively. Lack of water to grow food is one of the great causes of societal collapse and Diamond shows the problems the western U.S. is having supporting its population. He also points to the many other small 'first signs' of coming problems such as the rich insulating themselves in gated communities.

For all the dire examples, Diamond doesn't damn western society. He doesn't declare that we've already driven off the cliff of un-sustainability but he does show us that we're quickly racing towards it. His examinations of what worked in the past, what didn't work in the past, and what is going on right now, show that the most important 'point' out of the five is the response a society has to the new environmental pressures. If we can formulate the right response, there's no reason why our society shouldn't be among the list of civilizations that side-stepped collapse.

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