Diamond, Jared COLLAPSE: HOW SOCIETIES CHOOSE TO FAIL OR SUCCEED
Penguin Books 2005 0143036556 / 9780143036555 Paperback Very Good
Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is the gl ass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Ste el. While Guns, Germs, and Steel explained the geographic and environmental reasons why some human populations have flourished, Collapse uses the same factors to examine why ancient societies, including the Anasazi of the Ame rican Southwest and the Viking colonies of Greenland, as well as modern one s such as Rwanda, have fallen apart. Not every collapse has an environmenta l origin, but an eco-meltdown is often the main catalyst, he argues, partic ularly when combined with society's response to (or disregard for) the comi ng disaster. Still, right from the outset of Collapse, the author makes cle ar that this is not a mere environmentalist's diatribe. He begins by settin g the book's main question in the small communities of present-day Montana as they face a decline in living standards and a depletion of natural resou rces. Once-vital mines now leak toxins into the soil, while prion diseases infect some deer and elk and older hydroelectric dams have become decrepit. On all these issues, and particularly with the hot-button topic of logging and wildfires, Diamond writes with equanimity. Because he's addressing such significant issues within a vast span of time, Diamond can occasionally speak too briefly and assume too much, and at times his shorthand remarks may cause careful readers to raise an eyebrow. But in general, Diamond provides fine and well-reasoned historical examples, making the case that many times, economic and environmental concerns are one and the same. With Colla.