|About the Book|
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (also titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive) is a 2005 book by Jared M. Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles. Diamonds book dealsMoreCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (also titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive) is a 2005 book by Jared M. Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles. Diamonds book deals with societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbors, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses. In writing the book Diamond intended that its readers should learn from historyIn the prologue, Diamond summarizes Collapse in one paragraph:“This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapses to which environmental problems contribute. My previous book (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies), had applied the comparative method to the opposite problem: the differing rates of buildup of human societies on different continents over the last 13,000 years. In the present book focusing on collapses rather than buildups, I compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbors, political institutions, and other input variables postulated to influence a societys stability. The output variables that I examine are collapse or survival, and form of the collapse if collapse does occur. By relating output variables to input variables, I aim to tease out the influence of possible input variables on collapses.”Diamond identifies five factors that contribute to collapse: climate change, hostile neighbors, collapse of essential trading partners, environmental problems, and failure to adapt to environmental issues.He also lists 12 environmental problems facing mankind today. The first eight have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:1.Deforestation and habitat destruction2.Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)3.Water management problems4.Overhunting5.Overfishing6.Effects of introduced species on native species7.Overpopulation8.Increased per-capita impact of peopleFurther, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:1.Anthropogenic climate change2.Buildup of toxins in the environment3.Energy shortages4.Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacityDiamond also writes about cultural factors, such as the apparent reluctance of the Greenland Norse to eat fish.The root problem in all but one of Diamonds factors leading to collapse is overpopulation relative to the practicable (as opposed to the ideal theoretical) carrying capacity of the environment. The one factor not related to overpopulation is the harmful effect of accidentally or intentionally introducing nonnative species to a region.Diamond also states that it would be absurd to claim that environmental damage must be a major factor in all collapses: the collapse of the Soviet Union is a modern counter-example, and the destruction of Carthage by Rome in 146 BC is an ancient one. Its obviously true that military or economic factors alone may suffice.