Book - Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive

Collapse by Jared Diamond

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Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive

by Jared Diamond

This book is the philosophical follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs & Steel, one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read; however, this ones is completely engaging in a very different way — it brings the conclusions to today and the near future. Sadly these answers aren’t so good for modern first world societies.

Diamond brilliantly finds parallels from modern Montana and Greenland of a thousand years before and countless powerful examples of societies that succeeded, then fell. He found some 13 key factors; however, only a few really mattered and one ruled them all. The few that mattered seem to be:

  • environmental factors
  • breakdown of a good trade partner
  • violence from aggressive neighbour or internal war

In reality, the only one that really matters is the environment. If that’s stable, you rarely even have problems with the other 12 factors. And even more scary, the most important environmental factor seems to be around trees — if you don’t have good forestry management, you destroy your soil fertility, create solid erosion, create water problems and more. There are only a few societies that have managed to do any kind of forest management; Tikiopia, Germany (recently), Japan (only within Japan, they are striping the rest of Asia bare!) and New Guinea.

When you draw forward to today and look at all the other ecological problems we are creating, we are nearly doomed. Consider:

  • massive deforestation of the world’s rain forests, Australian forests, North American and Asian forests
  • massive destruction of nearly all the world’s fisheries
  • salinization and errosion of top soil everywhere
  • industrial pollution

Basically, there is no way to ignor this warning. The world needs to act to survive. This isn’t just about curbing waste, this is about completely changing the way we manage shared and private resources. This is about living with far less stuff — think comfortable 2nd world — having less children immediately, starting to repair the environmental damage that has been done — and doing it all right now.

Sadly, I know that this will never happen until it is too late. I now know that in my life-time and in my children’s the world will become damaged, war-torn in places and poorer. And I know it doesn’t have to be that way.

I recommend this book to everyone specially those with power to help change the world.