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?
©2004 Jared Diamond; (P)2004 Penguin Audio
"A thought-provoking book." (Booklist)
"An enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the indissoluble links that bind humans to nature." (Publishers Weekly)
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
Though I have some disagreements with the book's argument, that is not the reason for the low rating. This audiobook is surprisingly dull, and I have listened to quite a few nonfiction audiobooks on Audible. The narrator is very dry, the abridging makes it feel disjointed, and, worst of all, the little Jared Diamond details about how various historical incidents were determined through careful research are trimmed to the point of being uninteresting. Constant references are made to things that were cut (such as the history of a particular Norse farm) and the overall experience is somewhat oppressive as environmental collapse after collapse is listed. Read the book instead.
Instead of choosing to explain historical and scientific principles through theories, Jared Diamond chooses to explain his theories through real-life examples, focusing on the practical details. Collapse is a mixture of brief accounts covering societies from the Mayans to the Vikings and their reasons for failure. The book focuses mainly on the environmental aspects, but the social aspects are covered as well. The only thing I did not like 100% is that sometimes the author focuses too much on the environmental side, covering even the smallest details of rock composition, plant water consumption, etc. and I would have like to hear more about the social-economic aspects; but I am a social scientist, so my bias in this area is obvious.
Amazingly researched and thorough, this thought provoking text examines both the historical and present societies on earth. Although at times tedious, Jared Diamond begins his findings at Easter Island and concludes with Australia. I recommend this to anyone interested in the natural and physical sciences of the world.
The human capacity to live our lives without noticing the most significant forces impacting our lives is immense. Maybe that is just our evolutionary advantage and nothing to complain about. It takes however a bright and observant mind like Mr. Diamond's to notice, understand and classify these forces. And then to write that experience down in a way that transcends the time and the distance to these mainly forgotten civilizations. Armed with this knowledge we can draw our own conclusions regarding the future of human kind. This is the third book from the same author that had made a major impact on my view of the world and societies in which I live. For that I am very thankful.
I've never been so fascinated by soil samples and erosion. This book is both scholorly and amusing in it's presentation of science, archeological techniques, personal accounts and anecdotes. And how could one pick a more mysterious and engaging subject than the dissapearance of a society?
While this book is not quite as good as his last book, "Guns, Germs, and steel", it is still a brillent book. It is amazing how he pulls the research together in such a comprehensive way, and still making it such a joy to read or listen to. I recommend this book whole heartedly.
Approximately 1/3 of the way through this book it's impressive. Diamond has a gift for storytelling and an understanding of this thesis that makes this book well worth absorbing. He deftly weaves the story of modern Montanna into his studies of the past.
This book was well written for the first half providing fascinating and startling accounts of the demise of cultures and societies we have wondered about many times. The Easter Island story I have retold to countless friends. I recommend the book on this basis alone.
However, the second half of the book fails to live up to the title. It does not provide a framework for discussing the demise of civilizations existant today. Instead it turns into a typical ecological diatribe falling into the tired and idiotic doomsday preaching of the Ehrlichs and other authors who have been proven wrong time after time for their absurd projections about wildlife mass extinctions, DDT mania, cancer mania, resource exhaustion, famines and other doomsday scenarios promulgated by a highly politicized group of hardcore environmentalists who have been proven wrong time after time for decades.
If you like such doomsday books I suggest you balance it with a few readings that are more optimistic. There are such books. We continue to solve our problems, expand our knowledge, technology and ability to control our circumstances exponentially every year. If things were going so bad wouldn't people be dying younger every year or less food be produced or streams, rivers, lakes or our air be getting more polluted not less? Try reading some books that point out the real possibilities we have to increase food production, cure diseases, produce energy from many alternative sources, etc... You'll feel a lot better and it will be much more accurate predictions.
This book should be required reading for everyone living in a developed country in the 21st century. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, Diamond raises valuable questions in his comparison of current societies to those of the past. This book should help listeners view present-day cultures as situated in history, something citizens of the USA are all too likely to loose sight of. It is a powerful reminder that "infallibility" is an illusion, and that power is fickle. Diamond can be criticized by specialists for a few incorrect archaeological details. However, in my opinion these mistakes do not detract from the powerful, synthetic message he conveys. The book is long and reads (in text) somewhat unevenly; if you won't actually have the time to sit down and get all the way through it with the printed page, this abridged version has all the essentials and is just as thought-provoking.
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