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Publisher's Summary

In his million-copy best seller 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?

©2004 Jared Diamond (P)2004 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A thought-provoking book." (Booklist) "An enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the indissoluble links that bind humans to nature." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall

Pleasantly Surprised

I greatly feared starting this book. Quite frankly, I was worried I would feel thoroughly hopeless after the reading. I was pleasantly surprised by the author's engaging overview of past cultures, their mistakes and the outcomes.
I appreciated the manner in which the author built our understanding of current peril while still offering hope for change. It is a galvanizing read.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • James
  • Rochester, NY, USA
  • 01-15-06

Simplistic

I agreed with everything Jared Diamond had to say about how societies collapse and how those relate to the fate of modern global and in particular US society. But I have a feeling that some of the chains of logic he constructed might be disputable, and I would like to hear the other side. There must be some reason the bad processes he talks about continue. Either they aren't that bad or there is a counter-argument that is very compelling. I would have liked to have been allowed to be exposed to that argument. For example, the de-forestation of Easter Island had to become an issue for the islanders well before it became irreversible. Why didn't they seek to do something about it. That would be the interesting topic to explore, because that is precisely where our society is now. We know we are on a path to destruction, why don't we travel another path?

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • newtown, PA, USA
  • 07-26-05

A relentless, pointless slog...

This book was an unremarkable diatribe about the impending end of civilization due to our lack of environmental stewardship. It was such a slog. The author pummels you with item after item describing the impending end of our ecosystems, often with no hope that we can stop it. The book is a luddites delight, cataloguing the evils of mining, chemicals, manufacturing and commercial agriculture; pretty much what sustains modern life. As usual, the author offers no viable alternatives or solutions, just an over done word canvass of our impending demise. I so wish he had said something useful.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not really about Collapsing Societies

It should have been called "Collapse of some Pacific Islands and the Deforestation of a handful of other Places". That would be a much more descriptive title, but one less likely to sell books. I certainly would not have wasted the money on it if that had been it. Diamond really "phoned it in" on this one, which is sad. He is a real talent, or has been in the past, but this book is not in the class of "Guns, Germs and Steel".

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Charlottesville, VA, USA
  • 07-25-07

Enjoyable History

This is a great listen, entertaining and very informative. It does kind of descend into preaching about the environment at the end, but it is preaching with point.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

too much effort

There are some interesting sections of this book, but it goes on and on in some sections without providing much insight or information. Could have been half the length to cover the topics. If you liked guns, germs and steel you may not like this one at all. A dissappointment.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Average

You can tell this guy is a big environmental apocalyptic. His points no doubt are interesting and well researched but he always comes to the conclusion that it is environmental damage that leads to collapse. Maybe early civilizations didn't have the technology or education to overcome these problems? Although he disputes that as well saying we should never think technology will solve our worries because it only creates more unforseen problems.
He doesn't mention much about the effects of intellectuals and leaders in early civilizations either. You can't expect any population to survive with a uneducated mass that depends on the gods or mystical leaders for crops and rain.
I also think he completely ignores modern civilizations problems. In the Middle East and Africa, the majority of people are uneducated and poor. These people could care less about their environment so of course they are going to wreck them. What keeps them in this state? It is there leaders, government or dictators. Their decisions, corruption and inaction wreak havoc on societies. How can you expect any socialist, communist or theocratic philosophy to sustain a population? Those people are completely dependent on their leaders and if the leaders are inept, they are doomed to fail.
Interesting book but had to keep the caffiene pumping to get through it.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent

Brings very interesting ideas to how the world has been shaped. He cleary explains how the experiences and problems of past socities are directly related to today.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Diamond Bar, CA, USA
  • 07-10-05

Is there an abriged version?

Very well researched examples of past societies but too much detail and too long winded for me. I kept waiting for him to draw parallels to our current world or the present day USA and come up with examples of "how we are repeating our past, etc.. However, I never made it. I ended up putting it down. Maybe I'm a product of modern day fast food society but I think an editor or an abriged version might have been better for me. Gave it 3 stars because it is a nice history lesson, particularly with some insight to Rwanda.

1 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

You will not see the world the same again

It started off a little slow but when you get into it your eyes are opened to seeing all life in a new way. I am going to listen to it for a second time because of the amount information was overwhelming. It has definitely made me rethink how I will live my life from this point on. Now I understand what they meant when they said that we are on an island called Earth. The stuff he talks about will affect all human life in the next 50 years. I see Earth's fragility everywhere now.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful