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Collapse

How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Written by: Jared Diamond
Narrated by: Michael Prichard
Length: 27 hrs and 1 min
4.5 out of 5 stars (56 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion, and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization.

Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies around the world, but some found solutions and persisted. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe, and weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Collapse moves 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. 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?

©2014 Jared Diamond (P)2014 Penguin Audio

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Ought to be a textbook

This book was written in 2005 so obviously it’s a bit dated, but no less relevant.

Considering how many people want to “leave Earth to live on Mars” I would say this book is more relevant than ever.

Jared Diamond is so careful to be objective and look at all factors. He’s not left wing or right wing. He gives credit where credit is due to NGOs and big business alike and offers warnings... a lot of warnings. I hope this book is a wake up call for individuals, CEOs, and politicians.

I hope this book is made mandatory reading for social studies classes in high school.

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  • Rob
  • 2018-07-20

Jared Diamond Downs You in Explanation

Jared Diamond explains in 60 pages, what he could probably explain in 10. I think that's what makes his books so difficult to read. He gets away with it under an academic cover, but I think he just doesn't know how to concisely make a point. That said, his books are good reads. You could probably fast forward through a few parts, but you'll do so at the risk of missing something really valuable.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Vicky
  • 2018-02-06

So Many Ways to Die Like a Viking

Jared Diamond uses a telescopic lens to assimilate a big picture view of the globe. It is this ability to synthesize that makes reading his books an enjoyable experience… a learning experience. But, more than a textbook look at ecological factors, Diamond touches base with what individual places mean to the world around them. He not only describes individual loss in a region, but the impact of that collapse on the world around. He describes such archeological study methods as the study of middens, tree rings, and ice cores. He discusses the problem of ‘creeping normalcy,’ ‘landscape amnesia,’ and ‘tragedy of the commons.’

 

The Mayan Civilization and the Viking Colonies take up some of the largest sections of treatment. Diamond looks at how these societies failed to respond to ecological problems. The answers he gives to the Maya problem are some of the best researched and most clear reasons I’ve seen to date. I read the book from the Kindle version with whisper-sync, narrated by Michael Prichard. I read it as a part of my Journey Around the World in 80 books while in Guatamala (The Maya Civ,) and am excited about moving ahead to the Honduras.

 

He compares the sustainability of the volcanic Iceland soil to the fragile Greenland soil, and points to the way in which the Norse Vikings failed to adapt to living conditions that were vastly different from European Norway. Two of the surprising factors of the Viking problems I noticed were that the Greenland Norse apparently did not eat fish. They insisted on trying to raise their beloved beef, though their starving & stunted cows refused to eat seaweed, and had to be force hand-fed. That is certainly maladaptive, and unlike the Vikings in the other colonies. Seriously, when in Rome, do as the Romans. When living on an island, eat fish. Second, Iceland today is one of Europe’s richest places due to exports, where it was the poorest then. But, my bet for the Greenland Vikings disappearance is that their Inuit neighbors grew tired of their less than neighborly habit of checking to see how heavily they bled when pierced with a knife. They referred to the Inuit natives as Skraelings, or “Wretches.”

 

Individually, the book lays bare the experience of a number of societies; past and present, and looks for underlying contributing factors to their demise. Besides the Maya and the Vikings; Diamond analyses the disappearance at Easter Island, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the Anasazi Natives of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, among others. He sheds light on the sustainability of other nearby societies, like New Guinea (and Japan) where people have maintained resources for more than a millennia with only similar ecological conditions because of the choices they made.

 

Modern societies such as the Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda were also covered. Diamond shows how racial genocide was exacerbated by ecological problems and population density. He illustrates that the politicized racial problem was sometimes just an excuse to wipe out neighbors who had resources you needed. For example, some areas only had one Tutsi living there, yet during the massacre, Hutus killed many of their own Hutus anyways since there were no Tutsi nearby to kill. The political race bait was just the ‘match to light the keg.’ He compares and contrasts the Dominican Republic’s sustainability efforts with the lack thereof in Haiti, while both share the island of Hispaniola and a history of dictator government.

 

The book also covers the modern prospering countries of China and Australia that are on the cusp of having major ecological problems in the coming years. Throughout Diamond uses a framework of five factors that contribute to collapse: self-inflicted environmental damage, unanticipated ‘normal’ climate change, hostilities with other societies, friendly trading relations with other societies, and cultural attitudes. I highly recommend the book for those looking for a common sense, apolitical view of ecology in a global world.

10 people found this helpful

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  • JWD
  • 2019-01-27

Relevant but outdated

Mr Diamond’s book is still relevant but since it was published in 2005 many changes have occurred in the world. I always enjoy his work and would suggest listening to this one. You will be able to imagine how he would have modified it today.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Crobey
  • 2019-11-17

Something has to give...

Jared Diamond follows his previous book about how some societies came to dominate the world with Collapse about how others fell apart. We are not immune to the mistakes and ultimate fate of previous societies if we continue to ignore the damage we are doing to the planet that we all share. As far as Dr. Diamond is concerned, the world cannot handle even the status quo over the long term much less the continued expansion of both population and living standards of the first world.

You leave a little depressed and exasperated with just how small one can feel in the face of overwhelming problems and begin to see the resource depletion and environmental degradation he mentions everywhere. Each of us can do our part and ask our elected leaders to care. But ultimately just like he says, it is politically unpalatable to ask the first world citizens to lower their living standards. Until we are ready and willing to make the tough sacrifices, we probably continue on the dangerous path of speeding up the day when we leave our own planet uninhabitable for our species.

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  • Jeff H
  • 2015-01-15

Interesting subject, not as good as GG&S

Interesting and important subject, but I had a really hard time remaining interested in this book. I really enjoyed his other book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel". This one, however, seemed a lot more disjointed. The individual points he covers are interesting to learn, but I frequently struggled to see how they related to each other or to the theme as a whole. Towards the end it started getting very preachy (most of the book is not) and I found a few logical fallacies during his countering of opposing views (mostly "straw man"issues, like picking 2 outrageous false claims by an opponent and countering them against very mild invalid claims from members of his camp). Overall I would say I learned from the book, and it made me examine a few of my beliefs on the subject, but I would have a hard time recommending it to others.

Side note on the performance: overall, the reading was done well. Occasionally, there were major shifts in the tone and intensity of the reader's voice, from a higher pitch and higher intensity level to a softer, smoother voice. It was as though he were steadily getting more forceful in speaking, then ended for the day and resumed in a milder voice the next day. It didn't didn't really detract from the reading, but I was very aware of it each time it happened.

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  • Bev
  • 2019-08-08

A red pill

This is super long and dense, but if you're like I was and have a somewhat apathetic attitude about climate change, you need to read this. Regardless of what you believe about the etiology and severity of the climate change issue, you'll come away knowing just what a gravely important issue it is.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-11-29

Best book I have ever read

This book brought a broad, perspective-changing view of past and present environmental disasters with a detailed understanding of the factors that human societies control, and what decisions affect those factors. This book may be the most relevant one could read on current and future societal economic and environmental struggles. My perspective has been changed with a deep understanding of the principles that could determine the success or fall of populations worldwide. I would and will recommend this book to anyone with a mild interest in the survival of humanity.

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  • sonja jaffee
  • 2018-01-29

Will Our World Collapse

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes,with the proviso that Collapse was written in 2005

What did you like best about this story?

That choices led to a few ,notable, societal collapses. A few societies chose to make choices that enabled their survivial.

Have you listened to any of Michael Prichard’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No I have not heard Mr. Prichard before.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Listening to the book in one sitting was impossible. Collapse was a warning and hopeful in 2005. We've added some good precautions since then and thrown others to the wind. In sum it might be less hopeful now to someone who was not prepared dot fight for ecological truths.

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  • Urrooj Rehman
  • 2017-08-07

Slow but good

A bit slow at times but otherwise good. There is quite a political bent to the work

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  • Chemar
  • 2016-03-29

Liberal Manifesto

What was most disappointing about Jared Diamond’s story?

This author wrote the book with an audience in mind who already had a preconceived notion of the causes of collapse.

What didn’t you like about Michael Prichard’s performance?

The voice is dull and droll although it may have much to do with the content

Any additional comments?

Listen to Dr. Joseph Tainter on You Tube. It is free and far more enlightening.

3 people found this helpful