Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Review of Jared Diamond’s Book "Collapse"

This book makes gripping and important reading. It is balanced and builds a cohesive model of the parameters that can predict our own success or failure as a society.

Review of product: Jared Diamond’s "Collapse".

Rated as 4/5 on Apr 03 2007 by Brendan Lawlor

One of the really refreshing things about this book and this author is that he is playing to nobody’s tune but his own. He acknowledges from the outset that what he has to say will please neither those who assume that modern technological society is inherently wicked, nor those who feel it is blameless for our current state of affairs, ecologically speaking.

The book charts the success or failure of various human societies in the past and the modern age, compares them, and asks the question “What makes the difference between sociatal life and death?”. The author extrapolates 6 variables from past societies that, he argues, can be used to predict our own fortunes.

Most of the content is, it has to be said, disturbing. But Diamond insists that the jury is still out in our own case. He offers, as an appendix, a common sense list of things that every single one of us can do to play our part in addressing current problems that could lead, if unchecked, to the demise of our society as we know it.

I’m really glad that I read this book, and it’s one of the few books that I will undoubtedly re-read.

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frozntrlok said...

Following Diamond’s wisdom may be ignoring the real evidence and going down the wrong path.

Diamond did not "dig" very deep to find a society that would match his already formed conclusions. When I first started reading about Greenland, six years ago, I swiftly learned most of the themes that Diamond wrote about in his book Collapse.

Now, after six years of research I have just read the TRUE history left by the Norse in Greenland, entitled the "Maalan Aarum" (Walam Olum) meaning "Engraved years." [Google to Frozen Trail to Merica and click on decipherment.]

The Norse felt the hunger caused by over grazing their pasture lands. Many of them left to "the other side" (of Davis Strait--America).

Those who stayed lived mostly on food from the sea. When the Little Ice age closed the options of those remaining, they too walked on the ice to "the other side."

The Norse in Greenland faced two great ecological challenges. In both cases they decided, as a group. and left while they still had options. As a society they were successful, as Algonquin speaking tribes in North America and not as Norse in Greenland.

Where in the world of the 1300s, dominated by Popes, Kings, Khans, and other dictators, were there groups of people who could decide their own reaction to changing ecological conditions? Probably only in Iceland and Greenland, where the democratic “Althing” was the governing body.

The Vikings (Old Norse) succeeded against over whelming odds. They occupied 1/3 of North America when their cousins the English and the French landed on their shores. Diamond wrote in his previous book how germs, guns, and steel could destroy civilizations. He was perceptive in that book, but in Collapse he apparently rushed to print without doing his homework.

One of the rare civilizations in the 1300s with democratic government overcame two major ecological disasters by taking the best option available—moving. That survival of a democratic group under great stress is the story Diamond should have written about. That story offers a glimmer of hope for democratic societies.


Brendan Lawlor said...

Hi Myron,
Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail. I will certainly read what you have put together on your site. Until now, my understanding of Norse movement in North America was that it was relatively superficial and short lived - that it was always something seasonal and based from Greenland (rather than any establishment of a self-sustaining population).

Other than the Greenland section, did you find value in the rest of Collapse?

Humanus said...

I guess the Humanity is too weak and little inface of actual forces of Nature. One Solar ray emission and we get game over.